SALT LAKE CITY — After a scoreless first half, BYU senior Madie Siddoway Gates told her teammates she didn’t want to leave her final rivalry game disappointed.
Her teammates made sure that didn’t happen, as the midfielder’s last BYU-Utah game was a thriller in which she scored the deciding goal on a frenetic play less than six minutes before the match ended.
“I said, this is my last half to ever play,” said Gates after scoring the game-winning goal in the Cougars' 3-2 victory over Utah on Friday night. “I’m like, ‘Let’s do this.’ … It feels good to beat them.”
Gates couldn't remember many details about the game-winner, which came when Cameron Tucker crossed the ball directly in front Gates and a teammate. Utah's Carly Nelson deflected the first shot, but Gates was there to bump the ball into the corner net with her chest.
"I don't know for sure," Gates laughed about recalling the details of the sequence. "I chested it in, and I think I grabbed the net. I was in there with the ball. ... It just felt good to put it away. They came back, but for us to battle back and get that last goal, it felt good."
The Cougars controlled the ball most of the first half, but neither team managed to score.
“That was frustrating … because we had possession most of the time,” said Rachel Bingham Lyman, who had two assists in the win. “We just weren’t playing our game. Our game is to go at them, go for it, and to get those crosses off. Our coaches reminded us of that at the half.”
Lyman took the admonishment personally, and just 6:44 into the second half, she hit a spectacular cross that Elise Flake headed, between two defenders, into the corner of the goal.
“Our coaches told us we needed to go to the end line,” she said. “That’s our game. We like to go wide and get those crosses off, and that’s where most of our goals have come from in the past. So we all took it to heart, and I especially took it to heart.”
Lyman sent another cross into the path of Mikayla Colohan nearly 20 minutes later and BYU looked to have all the momentum and a 2-0 lead with about 20 minutes to play. That’s when Utah made an adjustment.
“I think it opened things up, and I think it unlocked something in our kids,” said Utah coach Rich Manning, “and that was good to see. … I was really proud of the team. Clearly they weren’t going to give up.”
Five minutes after BYU took a 2-0 lead, Utah scored on an impressive goal from Paola van der Veen, who took a pass from Holly Daugirda and scored.
Utah’s second goal was a header by Hailey Skolmoski, on a cross from Ireland Dunn. Skolmoski jumped above BYU’s goalie, Cassidy Smith, and headed the ball into the net with a motion that caused her to somersault into the air and almost land on her head.
The teams traded shots and impressive play from both goalies — Utah’s Nelson, who finished with six saves — and Cassidy Smith, who took over at halftime for Sabrina Davis, who earned five first-half saves before sustaining a head injury in a collision with a Utah player.
"It's always crazy like this against Utah and I'm proud of the girls," said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood. "I think we thought we might have had it, but they came back and then (Gates) came through when we needed her to."
Both Gates and Lyman said they were disappointed when Utah tied the game with less than seven minutes to play.
“When you’re up 2-0 and they come back, obviously, that was a bummer,” Gates said. “We just said, ‘Let’s keep going.’ And we did thankfully.”
Continuing to fight after losing that two-goal lead wasn’t as hard as it might seem.9 comments on this story
“Our queue for this game was just to be assertive,” Gates said. “No matter what, we’ve got to makes sure we keep attacking and keep acting on it.”
While BYU started and remained aggressive most of the game, Utah’s play changed substantially after they made a lineup adjustment following BYU’s second goal.
“We had a rough year last year, and they want to erase it so bad,” Manning said. “And they’re gripping too tight. (After the adjustment) I think it opened things up, and I think it unlocked something with our kids. That was good to see.”