September 15, 2017
When freshman Elise Flake scored a goal in the first three minutes of Monday’s 3-0 win at Oregon State, it lifted a huge burden off the collective shoulders of the BYU women’s soccer team.
After all, the Cougars had scored just three goals in six matches in a 0-3-3 start.
“To get that first win was huge,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “We just felt the momentum building over the past couple of weeks. We got off to a great start at Oregon State with our pressure. Nadia (Gomes) got a good shot off in the first minute then Elise scored a goal. What we’ve been trying to do is score first all year, be more dangerous and get the ball behind our opponent. We did that consistently on Monday.”
Scoring early can also have a profound effect on an opponent, as well. The early goal sent Oregon State reeling and the Beavers never recovered. The Cougars added two more goals for a 3-0 halftime lead.
“The percentages are so high in soccer for a team that scores first, at least in the games we’ve played in,” Rockwood said. “We’ve had to kind of fight back from that. It’s hard mentally, especially that early on. Realistically there’s still a ton of time left in the game, but there’s definitely a mental advantage to go out and score early. It takes the pressure off and we can play with a little more freedom.”
One of those first-half goals was scored by BYU senior Madie Lyons Mathews, her first marker since she had two goals against Saint Mary’s during the 2015 season.
“When we score in the first few minutes, I think it helps us relax,” Mathews said. “The attacking three players and attacking mids too, they were working their tails off to make those defenders tired, so when we came in they were already tired and we could do what we needed to do.”
Mathews is one of nine seniors on this year’s team. The Cougars have enjoyed amazing success in the past four or five years and the slow start has forced the seniors to step up in leadership to keep the younger players confident.
“I have nothing to lose this year,” Mathews said. “All the other seniors can say that, too. We want to have the best year we can and do everything we can to make this team great. It’s important for us to keep encouraging the younger players and keep the team mentality positive.”
With win No. 1 on the books, BYU hopes to close the preseason strong. The Cougars travel to Arizona (2-2-2) for a Friday match then return home to host Kansas on Monday in an afternoon contest (1 p.m. MDT).
“Arizona is a tough team to play against,” Rockwood said. “They are very athletic and they play with more of a direct style. Where we try and knock the ball around, sometimes it’s hard to play when teams like to just get it and kick it forward. It will be important for us to protect the ball and get in behind them so they don’t have time to set up and serve balls. They like to serve the ball and create chaos.”
BYU faces Utah Valley on Sept. 22 to close the preseason and opens West Coast Conference play Sept. 29 at home against San Diego.