BYU women’s soccer: Cougars roll into the Elite 8 of NCAA tournament with a 3-0 win over North Carolina State
The Cougars have impressed all season long and couldn’t have looked much better in taking a 3-0 shutout win over the Wolfpack on Saturday
PROVO — It was pretty much exactly what Alyssa Jefferson had in mind heading into what will likely be BYU women’s soccer’s final two matches played at South Field this season.
“I just love soccer so much and it’s so fun. This senior year has been like a dream.” — BYU’s Alyssa Jefferson
Jefferson, a senior, has played many dominating matches in front of the Cougar faithful, although it’s hard to envision a two-match slate as impressive as the two played on Thursday and then on Saturday. The competition was the Atlantic Coast Conference’s finest in the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament, with the Cougars pitching a combined shutout.
On Thursday it was a 4-0 skunking of Louisville leading up to Saturday’s 3-0 romp over North Carolina State, which left Jefferson and her teammates smiling big thereafter.
“I can’t even describe it,” Jefferson said after Saturday’s win. “I just love soccer so much and it’s so fun. This senior year has been like a dream. I couldn’t have asked for anything better. I love everyone on the team, and it’s just a great way to go out.”
Of course the qualifier to going out playing on South Field on Saturday is if No. 1 seed Stanford indeed does defeat No. 4-seeded Penn State on Sunday, with BYU playing the winner of that match next weekend. Should the Nittany Lions pull the upset, then the Cougars will return to play one more on their home turf — a scenario relished by Jefferson and her team.
As for Jefferson’s teammates, they were all in top form, leading off with the play of junior Cameron Tucker, who provided two goals, which included a key strike in the 12th minute of the match. The beneficiary of an assist from Mikayla Colohan, Tucker was able to punch one through to gain the early lead the Cougars had in mind.
“Tonight it was going to be important for us to get off to a quick start against such a good team,” said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood. “We wanted to really make sure we set the tone and dictated the speed of play.”
Adding effectively to BYU’s favorable tone was defender Josie Guinn, who sent in a screaming shot just under the right corner of the crossbar for just her second goal scored this season. The goal came in the 34th minute to give the Cougars a commanding 2-0 lead.
“I’ve been wanting to score for the longest time,” Guinn said. “The most fun time to play soccer is when you don’t have to defend ... So if I make the forward have to defend me, then that’s the best situation.”
“Josie has practiced that shot almost every day this year,” Rockwood added. “So it was very fitting. She’s earned that. It was awesome.”
Backing up the scoring opportunities was another stellar performance by the Cougars’ back end, with goalie Sabrina Davis providing several impressive saves to help secure the shutout. As is often the case, Davis’ exemplary work was bittersweet for Jefferson to watch.
“I hate whenever Sabrina has to make a save, because I know it’s my fault, but I can always count on her,” Jefferson said. “I may be biased, but she always plays great. She’s always ready to guide us and sets the tone. So yeah, (Sabrina) is always on fire.”
Finishing off the scoring was again Tucker, scoring unassisted in the 49th minute for the 3-0 lead, which proved to be the final.
As mentioned, the Cougars move on to play the winner of Sunday’s match between No. 1 seed Stanford and No. 4 seed Penn State, with Rockwood and her teammates making no pretense on who they’d rather face.
“We’ll see what happens and they’re both obviously very good programs,” Rockwood said. “... Obviously I think we’ll be cheering a little bit for Penn State. We’d love to come back here and play in the snow next week, but it doesn’t matter, and it’s kind of what we’ve talked about all year ... They’re both very good teams, but we’re a good team, too, and we like our odds.”