BYU women's soccer: Cougars slip past Utah State for first-round win in NCAA tournament
Jeffrey D. Allred, Deseret News
PROVO — BYU's first round game as a No. 1 seed in the women's NCAA soccer tournament was delayed a day because of the big snowstorm that blew through the Wasatch Front, but that didn't stop the Cougars from pulling out a hard-fought 2-1 win over visiting Utah State Saturday afternoon.
BYU Athletic Director Tom Holmoe and many in the BYU athletic department spent hours shoveling and plowing snow from South Field leading up to the game in order to make it playable.
"I thought the field held up and I don't think it was a factor in today's game," BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said.
What was a factor were the two goals BYU scored in the first half to take a commanding 2-0 lead into the break.
The Cougars didn't take long to jump out in front. In the 30th minute Jessica Ringwood received a pass from Jaiden Thornock at the top of the box, where she turned away from a defender and drilled a clean shot to the top of the net for the 1-0 lead.
"It was a great cross," Ringwood said. "Especially in slick conditions. You just put it on frame and anything can happen."
Ten minutes later BYU's Marissa Nimmer received a ball just inside the box that had come off both Kayla Varner and Ringwood and trickled through a few Aggie defenders. She slotted it past the Aggie keeper to give the Cougars what looked like an insurmountable 2-0 lead.
The Aggies answered quickly, however, only two minutes into the second half when Jackie Tillotson emerged with a shot and goal in a chaotic struggle that started with a free kick.
"I don't really know what happened. I just remember it was bouncing around everywhere and that goalie touched it and it hit the girl and I just kicked it in," Tillotson said.
"I went out to try to punch it away and it went back to the center of the goal," BYU goalie Erica Owens said. "In muddy conditions no one can really get good footing or move as well as we normally can and they were able to poke it in."
The goal gave the Aggies a tremendous lift.
"It gave us hope and it gave us momentum and breathed a little bit of life into our team," Utah State coach Heather Cairns said.
Unfortunately for the Aggies, the momentum didn't lead to any more goals. Utah State's best opportunity after its goal came in the 81st minute when Kendra Pemberton had an open shot from just inside the box that Owens was able to tip over the crossbar.
Over the final minutes, Utah State had a difficult time even getting the ball into the offensive end of the field.
"I was really proud of the way we regrouped at half and the adjustments that we made and the intensity that they came out with," Cairn said. "We won that second half, but unfortunately lost that first half.
"I'm so proud of these guys and the way they fought against the No. 2 team in the country."
Despite the cold conditions, a late arriving crowd of 2,200, including a large number of Utah State fans, braved the weather and showed up at South Field.
BYU improves to 19-1-1 on the season while Utah State finished 13-3-6.
"It was obviously a huge win for us," Rockwood said. "We drew a really tough first-round game against Utah State. They've had a great season and we knew it would be a battle."
In the second round, the Cougars will take on a 12-10-1 Auburn team that defeated Washington in the first round.
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