In the last couple of years the BYU women's soccer team has made their mark in Provo. With continued success on the field, they have invigorated a fan base and helped bring fill the seats at South Field. After an elite eight run in 2012, the Cougars made a return trip to the NCAA tournament in 2013 and made it to the second round before losing to Colorado. Not only have the Cougars had overall success, they have won at least a share of the West Coast Conference title the last two years and look to continue the success in 2014. With the success they have earned respect from voters as they come into the season ranked 22nd in the country.
The team experienced a number of key losses due to graduation last year but with a few key returnees, and some experience from the younger players, the Cougars will continue to provide an exciting brand of soccer in Provo. During the season there will be a few key things to watch for as the Cougars look to reach the NCAA tournament again. Look for the team to replace and overcome key losses from last year's team and look for them to build on their current strengths.
Areas to Improve
The biggest area of concern is who will take over for Erica Owens, who could arguably be the best goalkeeper in the Cougars history. Erica Owens not only played every minute last season, but she also had 22 shutouts in her career. At this point the battle for goalkeeper consists of freshman Hannah Clark, junior Hilary Kaufusi, and senior Katherine Snyder. Kaufusi, the wife of football player Bronson, has the most playing time as she has recorded one save in 31 minutes. Snyder adds 21 minutes and a save to give the replacements just over a half of game experience.
The Cougars also lose some offense as Cloee Colohan tied for the team lead with six goals and Colette Jepson Smith added five goals and both graduated last year. With these holes to fill the Cougars will have some opportunities to see which players will step up, but if nobody does then it could cause problems for the BYU offense.
Areas of Strength
The most obvious strength for the Cougars is returning sophomore Ashley Hatch. Not only did she tie with Colohan for the team lead in goals (6) last season, she also led the team in shots (65) and tied for the lead in assists (7) with returning senior Niki Fernandes. Hatch was named WCC freshman of the year by College Sports Madness and represents the perfect all around player.
Sophomore Michele Murphy will also return after a medical redshirt last year and will look to find her form that won her the WCC freshman of the year in 2012. Added to these key players will be Niki Fernandes. After not knowing if she would play with the Cougars again, she was granted a rare sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA and looks to take advantage as she teams up with Hatch and Murphy to lead the Cougars offense.
This year the Cougars could have one of the best schedules in recent memory as they will face a number of tough teams in and out of conference. Some of these teams include Washington State, Tennessee, Baylor, Utah, Long Beach State, Colorado College and Denver. This is on top of in-conference foes Portland and Santa Clara. College Sports Madness has these teams in or around their top 45 teams.
The official schedule starts on August 22nd at 7 pm PDT in Fullerton, CA against Cal State Fullerton. However, don't miss their exhibition games on August 13th (Blue and White game) at 7 pm MDT at South Field, and on August 16th (Alumni) at 7 pm MDT at South Field. Don't miss your chance to see another exciting year for the Cougars as they chase another NCAA Tournament!