Not even steady rain on Friday could douse the embers of momentum still smoldering from BYU’s hot night at South Field on Thursday, where the No. 7-ranked Cougars knocked off No. 1-ranked and defending national champion UCLA, 3-1.

Goals by former Bruin Ellie Walbruch and teammates Erin Bailey and Rachel McCarthy capped a dominating performance in which BYU (5-0) never trailed.

“We knew what we were trying to do. We went into the game expecting to win and it’s not often you can do that against a No. 1 team, but with this group, we expected to win the game.” — BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood about facing the Bruins

“It feels great,” BYU coach Jen Rockwood said prior to Friday’s practice. “It kinda went like you had hoped it would go. I saw it going down that way in my head, so it’s kinda fun that it actually happened.”

For Rockwood, the only coach in BYU women’s soccer history, the victory stands apart from the other 439 in her 28-year career. It was the first time the Cougars had defeated the nation’s top-ranked program at South Field, where 5,209 fans showed up to cheer them on.

“I told the girls before the game that we scheduled UCLA two years ago and at the time, we knew it would be a big game for us because they are typically a top-10 or top-15 team,” Rockwood said. “Then (the Bruins) went and won the national title and came in No. 1. We couldn’t have drawn it up any better. That’s exactly what we want.”

Rockwood fields a roster that includes 10 experienced seniors, with most of them benefiting from an extra COVID-19 season in which participation was not counted against any eligibility.

“There are not many teams in the country that have the returning experience that we have,” she said. “We knew what we were trying to do. We went into the game expecting to win and it’s not often you can do that against a No. 1 team, but with this group, we expected to win the game.”

How BYU soccer earned a historic victory in win over top-ranked UCLA
BYU soccer beats No. 1 UCLA

The pedigree of just the last four years speaks volumes about Rockwood’s program. The Cougars reached the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament in 2019, the second round in 2020, the championship game in 2021, and the Sweet 16 last year.

BYU spent Friday preparing for a rematch at Utah Valley (2-2-1) on Saturday. The Wolverines stunned the Cougars 4-2 last year at South Field.

“We might have overlooked UVU a little bit and didn’t go in the game with the confidence we had planned on,” Rockwood said. “This year, I don’t think our team overlooks them. They remember they beat us on South Field last year. We must learn from our UCLA match and be better for it. If we don’t get the result we want on Saturday, it takes away from what we did last night. I think we will be ready.”

BYU will play at Utah on Sept. 9 before returning home to face TCU in what will be the athletic program’s first Big 12 competition. It will also be the fourth conference home during Rockwood’s reign that began in 1995. She hopes another full house will be there to cheer BYU into additional history. 

“The energy at South Field last night was electric,” she said. “Those are special nights. It was a big deal for us. It had a big impact on the energy the crowd gives our girls to play for them and play in that environment. I hope they had a blast and hope they come back.”

Jennifer Rockwood’s ‘Super Six’

Jen Rockwood has coached 620 games at BYU and among those, there are six that stand out from the others, including Thursday’s victory against UCLA.

Here they are:

Nov. 11, 1998: BYU defeated Stanford 6-1 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. “There was tons of snow at South Field,” Rockwood told the “Y’s Guys” podcast. “We had to push it to the side and created four-feet high snow banks. Stanford came to the field wearing these huge snow coats. They had no idea what hit them.”

Nov. 22, 2003: The Cougars won at Villanova in penalty kicks in the Sweet Sixteen. “I remember thinking, ‘We are going to the Elite Eight!’” Rockwood said.

Oct. 13, 2012: In their second year in the WCC, the Cougars rolled into national power Portland and beat the No. 6 Pilots 2-1. “To go into their place and beat them in front of their fans was special and I’ll bet we had over 1,000 BYU fans there. Cougar Nation shows up wherever we go.”

Nov. 23, 2012: The Cougars were a No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament and played host to longtime soccer superpower North Carolina. “This history that UNC had and to have them on South Field in the tournament, and knowing we were the higher seed was amazing.” The Tar Heels won the game 2-1 and went on to win the national championship.

Dec. 6, 2021: BYU took No. 1 Florida State into penalty kicks in the national championship game where the Seminoles survived to win the title. “To be playing the best of the best in the national title game — and knowing the level our girls played at in that game was incredible.”

Aug. 31, 2023: The Cougars defeated No. 1 UCLA 3-1 to record their first home win against a top ranked team in school history. The victory also gave Rockwood the 440th win of her career.

“Those are some fun memories of playing at the highest level against some of the best teams in the country,” Rockwood said.

Players battle for possession of the ball during game between BYU and No. 1-ranked UCLA Thursday, Aug. 31, 2023, at Smith Field in Provo. The Cougars upset the Bruins, 3-1. | BYU Photo

BYU’s Super Six wins against UCLA

Aug. 31, 2023: Women’s soccer defeats defending national champion and No. 1 ranked UCLA 3-1 at South Field in front of a sold-out crowd of 5,209. It was the program’s first victory against a top ranked team and improved the No. 7 Cougars to 5-0.

Sept. 13, 2008: Quarterback Max Hall tied a school record with seven touchdown passes in BYU’s 59-0 victory against UCLA in Provo. The Cougars scored 35 points in the second quarter. Receiver Austin Collie caught 10 passes for 110 yards and two touchdowns.

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Dec 22, 2007: Ethyn Manumaleuna blocked Kai Forbath’s 28-yard field goal attempt as time expired to preserve BYU’s 17-16 victory in the Las Vegas Bowl. The Cougars finished the season 11-2 and ranked No. 14 in the AP Top 25 poll.

Feb. 26, 1999: Men’s volleyball swept the defending national champion Bruins 15-11, 15-0 and 15-13 at the Smith Fieldhouse. The No. 1 ranked Cougars extended the longest winning streak in program history to 22 games.

Oct. 1, 1983: Quarterback Steve Young threw two touchdown passes to upset the Bruins 37-35 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, California, in the first meeting between the two football programs. BYU outrushed UCLA 265-86.

March 14, 1981: Danny Ainge scored 37 points to lead BYU past No. 3 seed UCLA 78-55 to reach the Sweet Sixteen in the 1981 NCAA Tournament. BYU followed up the win with a 51-50 victory against Notre Dame to reach the Elite Eight for the only time in program history.

BYU’s Max Hall, left, and UCLA couch Rick Neuheisel meet at midfield after BYU handed UCLA its worst loss in 79 years, winning 59-0 at LaVell Edwards Stadium in Provo on Sept. 13, 2008. | Scott G. Winterton, Deseret News
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