For the first time in over a decade, BYU women’s soccer will play for a conference title following the close of its regular season and ahead of the NCAA tournament.

Despite having a successful regular season, the Cougars fell short of preseason expectations but hope to make up for that in their initial Big 12 conference tournament in Round Rock, Texas, this week.  

“We’re excited for it — we always wanted to have a conference tournament in the WCC and now we get one,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said in an interview with BYU sportscaster Greg Wrubell last week. “We have a week to prepare and see who we match up against and so we’re excited to head out.”

“This is a really good conference. … It’ll prepare us for postseason play in the NCAA tournament and that’s what we’re looking for.”  

BYU has been prepared well in its new conference, coming a hair shy of a Big 12 title in its first season in the league. But one too many ties sunk the Provo school, which finished conference play in second place and two points short of Big 12 champion Texas Tech. 

The Cougars and Red Raiders were the only two squads to complete their league schedule without a loss. However, Texas Tech had one fewer draw than BYU. Only one team in the Big 12 had more ties in league play than the Cougars’ three, ninth-place finisher Cincinnati with five. 

How Jennifer Rockwood turned BYU women’s soccer into a national brand

“One tie kind of hurt us,” Rockwood said to Wrubell. “But overall a really good performance. (It’s) great to be in the Big 12.”

In an odd twist, the Cougars ended conference play with just two wins at home to go along with their trio of draws despite earning a perfect 5-0 record on the road against league foes. 

The two wins marked BYU’s fewest league victories in Provo since the post-pandemic 2020-21 season when it only played three conference matches at South Field. 

On the flip side, the 5-0 road record marks the first time the school won all its away conference contests since 2012. BYU’s road success was a huge factor in helping the Cougars end conference play behind only Texas Tech.  

After finishing in second place in the Big 12, BYU, along with Texas Tech, earned byes into the tournament’s quarterfinal round beginning Monday. The Cougars will face 10th seed Oklahoma, which defeated seventh seed Oklahoma State Saturday.  

Earlier this month, BYU defeated the Sooners 2-0 on the road, becoming the only team this season to shut out Oklahoma on its own field.  

If the Cougars can earn a second victory over Oklahoma, they move on to Wednesday’s semifinals and face the winner of third seed TCU and sixth seed UCF. 

BYU went a combined 3-0-1 against schools on their side of the bracket, with the trio of victories all coming in the school’s final three contests. The only draw came against TCU in September to open up conference play.

BYU ended its regular season on a tear, winning its final four matches and entering the conference tournament as the only Big 12 team to complete that span without a loss or a draw. 

An experienced roster has helped the Cougars remain cool while their play heated up down the stretch of the regular season, gearing the school up for the matches that matter most. 

“That experience definitely comes with … consistency,” Rockwood said. “Soccer can change quickly, within games momentum shifts. And (because of) the leadership and the confidence that we have on the field our team is able to adapt within the games. We’ve proven to do that.”

The Cougars will have more to adapt to playing in a conference tournament for the first time since 2010. The school is eager to get back on the field in hopes of adding to its four-game win streak in their second shot at a Big 12 title. BYU begins postseason play Monday against Oklahoma at 4:30 p.m. MDT streaming live on Big 12 Now on ESPN+. 

BYU fans cheer on the Cougars during a game against Texas Tech at South Field in Provo on Oct. 6, 2023. BYU’s begin Big 12 Tournament play Monday against 10th seed Oklahoma. | Donovan Kelly, BYU Photo