The BYU women’s soccer team made program history on Saturday night.
In the fourth and final quarterfinal of the 2021 NCAA women’s soccer tournament, the Cougars beat the South Carolina Gamecocks 4-1 to advance to their first-ever Final Four, also known as the College Cup.
The game at South Field Saturday marked just the second time in program history that BYU hosted such a contest.
The only other time it did was in 2012, when it lost to North Carolina in extra time.
Saturday was much different than that heartbreaking loss nearly a decade ago, as senior midfielders Mikayla Colohan and Makaylie Moore scored two goals apiece to lead the Cougars.
After coaching, and losing, in three previous quarterfinals, BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood was asked what it was like to finally break through.
“It’s just real exciting,” she said. “There’s a lot of great teams and a lot of great players that have come before these guys, but I do feel this is the best team we’ve had on both sides of the ball, especially our attack and our energy and how hard we play and how well we play together.”
The Cougars showed how well they play together, controlling the game from the first whistle.
BYU led 2-0 a mere 15 minutes into the match, as an early Colohan counterattack led to Moore’s first goal in just the third minute.
Minutes later, the West Coast Conference Player of the Year followed up her assist with a goal of her own.
After South Carolina pulled one back before intermission on a goal from Corinna Zullo in the 40th minute, Colohan’s next goal came early in the second half, stretching the Cougars’ lead back to two.
“It’s what you work for your whole life,” Colohan said following her outstanding performance.
“I’ve wanted to be in this position the whole time I’ve been at BYU, and I’m lucky that we were able to get another year to come back to make it happen. I’m just super excited and couldn’t ask for anything more.”
Moore then scored the home side’s fourth goal of the night off a corner kick in the 61st minute.
After watching her team give up its first goals of the NCAA tournament to BYU, South Carolina coach Shelley Smith praised the Cougars.
“They’re an excellent team,” she said. “They showed tonight why they’re deserving to go to the Final Four. I’m happy for them, I think they’re going to make a tremendous run.”
Colohan and the Cougars continue to stay focused as they prepare for their next match, even as the stakes are raised.
“It seems like we’re just ready to play another game,” Rockwood said. “I don’t think the College Cup thing has really hit, but it’s a huge accomplishment.
“I know not many people get to coach in one or play in one, so we’ll make the most of it for sure.”
Before dismantling South Carolina, BYU’s road to the College Cup included wins over New Mexico, Alabama and previously No. 2 ranked Virginia.
The Cougars outscored those first three opponents 11-1, cruising past the Lobos and Crimson Tide before taking down Virginia, its tournament region’s top seed, in a tightly contested match.
BYU senior forward Cameron Tucker was the hero of that game, scoring the contest’s only goal and giving the Cougars the 1-0 upset victory.
“It’s just a dream come true,” Tucker said Saturday night. “Coming back, you know, as fifth year seniors, this is the end goal that (we) had.”
The three other Elite Eight matchups were played Friday, with top seeds Florida State and Rutgers each advancing, along with defending champion Santa Clara.
The Cougars will battle with their fellow West Coast Conference squad and the College Cup host for a chance make it to this year’s final.
BYU was shut out by the Broncos in a 1-0 loss on Oct. 30.
The two sides’ national semifinal game will be played on Dec. 3, with the start time to be announced later.