BYU women’s soccer defeats Michigan State in NCAA Tournament Sweet 16

BYU’s offense came alive in the second half of its Sweet 16 game against fifth-seeded Michigan State Saturday night at South Field as the Cougars earned a 3-1 win over the Spartans.

The No. 1 seed Cougars scored all three goals after intermission to advance to the Elite Eight.

“I’m proud of the way we competed,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “It was not an easy match for us. We were a little out of our comfort zone because of the pressure from Michigan State and their ability to move the ball, but the girls, I thought, stuck with it.

After BYU scored 11 goals in the three games leading up to the NCAA Tournament, the nation’s number one scoring offense had slowed down a bit.

The Cougars had used a pair of shutouts and only three goals in the first two rounds to advance to the Sweet 16. On Saturday, the Cougars didn’t post a shutout, but they didn’t need one.

Neither team got on the board in the first half and went into halftime with an even score. Both schools had opportunities to score in the first half, but were unable to capitalize on them.

BYU had three shots on goal and earned three corner kicks, while Michigan State had two shots on goal and no corner kicks in the first half.

That all changed in the second half. Michigan State drew first blood, taking a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute on a right arrow from senior midfielder Gabby Mueller.

“I think everyone (on our team) believed we would find a way to score,” Rockwood said. “We’ve been scoring all year long.”

BYU did just that, wrapping up the game just minutes later on senior forward Brecken Mozingo’s penalty kick in the 55th minute.

Mozingo said she was motivated to help her team play a better second half after a goalless first half.

“There are two different periods and I wanted to make sure we came out as a team and had energy to win that next period,” she said.

Sandy’s senior ultimately was extremely important to the Cougars winning the second half. After that first goal, Mozingo got BYU on top with a steal and a second goal in the 60th minute – this time through the back of the net from the top of the box.

“Postseason football is a fragile thing,” Michigan State coach Jeff Hosler said. “Once you give a team like BYU that many opportunities, they will find ways to capitalize on them.”

A veteran Cougars squad took advantage of their chances Saturday, just two days after squeaking past No. 8 seed USC to advance to a third straight Sweet 16.

Things weren’t so pretty last year when BYU fell to Chapel Hill, North Carolina. This year, playing in front of a sold-out, Cougar-friendly crowd of 3,695, BYU achieved a much different outcome than a season ago.

“Last year we were one of the best teams in the country when it came to creating chances, but we didn’t take them,” Rockwood said. “There are players coming off the bench who can score. We can score in many different ways. … I believe we have the deepest bench we’ve ever had on a BYU team.

The Cougars’ third goal came from reserve sophomore forward Ellie Walbruch, who headed in a Mozingo corner kick in the 80th minute. From then on, BYU held on for the win by two scores.

The win gives the Cougars their fifth all-time Elite Eight appearance, three of which have now come in the last five seasons.

BYU faces a familiar foe regardless of the outcome between No. 3 seed North Carolina and No. 2 seed Texas Tech, who battle Sunday for a chance to face the Cougars at South Field.

BYU will face the winner on Friday at 6 p.m., with a spot in the national semifinals on the line.

Leave a comment