BYU Advances to Host Auburn in College Cup
After a one-day delay due to Utah Valley’s first major fall storm that kept BYU’s grounds crew scrambling to prepare South Field that had been covered by almost a foot of snow, No 1 seed BYU Cougars were able to hold off the Utah State Aggies 2-1 in the first round of the NCAA Women’s College Cup.
The two teams met earlier in the season on Sept. 20 in Logan, where the then No. 12 Cougars won 1-0. BYU came into the game on a 17-game winning streak, while the Aggies came in on an 11-game streak themselves.
Both teams started aggressively, like two boxers counter-punching each other in the opening rounds, and in the first 10 minutes, each team had taken two shots. But, in the next 20 minutes, the Cougars began to look for opportunities to penetrate the Aggie defense that only gave up 11 goals all season and out-shot the Aggies 5-0.
Then in the 30th minute, sophomore forward Jaiden Thornock served a perfect cross to senior forward/midfielder Jessica Ringwood in the middle of the 18-yard box. She calmly collected the ball between two Aggie defenders, turned to her right and buried the shot into the upper left corner of the goal.
“We had a lot of chances in the first half (outshot the Aggies 10-5)”, said Ringwood. “It was a great pass in especially slick conditions. I just put it on frame and when you do that anything can happen.”
About 10 minutes later, in the 40th minute, The Cougars got on the board again when freshman MF Marissa Nimmer scored on an assist from another freshman, forward Kayla Varner. Junior D/MF Cloee Colohan kicked the ball high up field, where Ringwood headed it into the center of the penalty box where Varner one-touched it to Nimmer who was then able get the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. The goal was Nimmer’s fourth of the season and Varner’s second assist.
“Nimmer has gradually throughout the season been able to build and build.” BYU head coach Rockwood said. “It’s not just about your starters; it’s about your entire team. You need players to come off the bench and give you a spark. Nimmer is getting more and more confidence and we’ve been able to put her out there and give her more opportunities. Her goal today was brilliant and obviously the difference maker.”
The Cougars went into halftime with a comfortable 2-0 lead, but things quickly changed when within the first minute of the 2nd half, Aggie sophomore defender Taryn Rose had a free kick from outside the Cougar’s 18 that bounced into the Cougar’s 6-yard box where there was a mad scramble for the ball. Aggie freshman Jade Tarver kicked it and then junior defender Jackie Tillotston got her foot on it and pushed it by BYU junior goalkeeper Erica Owens to make it a brand new game at 2-1.
When asked in the post-game interviews what she remembered, Tillotston said, “I remember the ball bounced around everywhere. The goalie touched it, it hit another girl (Tarver) and I just kicked it in. I was in the right place at the right time.”
Both coaches agreed that Tillotston’s goal changed the complexion of the game. Rockwood said, “When you have a two goal lead and you give up a goal, obviously the momentum shifts a little bit. I think you could see that. I think the nerves set in and we struggled for a little while to get the ball under control, but the girls continued to battle and I thought we did a great job.”
Aggie coach Heather Cairns said she was proud of the way her team regrouped during halftime. She made a few adjustments and asked her team start the second half quickly and they did just that. From that, point there were still another 44 minutes to play and it became a completely new ballgame. Coach Cairns said, “It breathed new life into our team, it gave us hope and we had a try to gamble a little bit because we knew if we lost we go home.”
BYU still had the edge but at that point, the margin for error had been significantly diminished.
The Aggies battled hard for the rest of the game and it became even more physical on both sides. In the 30th minute WCC MVP senior Lindsi Cutshall was held by an Aggie forward, and as she retaliated in her attempt to break free she got caught by the referee who gave her a yellow card (Cairns and her staff were screaming for a red card which would have tossed Cutshall from the game). “It’s really intense,” Ringwood said. “When it gets that heated like that, it is not easy to keep your heads in (the game) and stay composed. I think everyone did a great job of not letting their emotions get carried away.”
Both teams continued to try to score, the shots on goal were even at 3-3, but the Cougars had a slight advantage in total shots 9-5. The Cougar defense was equally as good as the Aggies’ if not a little better, having only given up 10 goals all season and they refused to give the Aggies very many chances to tie up the game. However, with about nine minutes to go, the Aggies got their last real good look at the goal when junior midfielder Kendra Pemberton found herself unmarked just outside the top center of the penalty box. She rifled a high shot towards the center of the goal but Owens just got her hand on it and deflected it over the cross bar.
“It’s always a very surreal moment,” Owens explained. “I sit there and time seems to slow down. I think about all the pressure that is on my shoulders and I tell myself to do the absolute best that I can to not let my teammates down.” And has been the case so often this season, she was up to the task and able to keep the opponent from scoring.
As the No. 1 seed in one of the four 16-team brackets, BYU will continue to serve as host for its second round game against Auburn on Thursday, which will air live at 6 p.m. MST on BYUtv. The Tigers defeated Washington in the first round to advance to meet the Cougars. If BYU wins that game, they will host a third-round Sweet 16 match on Saturday against the winner of the game between Marquette (the 4th seed) and Princeton. All games will take place at South Field at times to be announced.