Provo • After departing senior goalkeeper Erica Owens played every minute last season for the BYU women’s soccer team, coach Jennifer Rockwood knew that if the Cougars were going to return to the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in 10 years, she would have to come up with a capable replacement in the nets.
That task was made even more difficult last spring, when projected starter Hilary Kaufusi — wife of BYU football star Bronson Kaufusi — went down with a season-ending knee injury.
2014 BYU women’s soccer team
Key losses » D Paige Hunt (mission), GK Hilary Kaufusi (knee injury), F/M Colette Jepson Smith (graduation), M Cloee Colohan (graduation), GK Eric Owens (graduation)
Key returnees » F Ashley Hatch, F Niki Fernandes, F Jaiden Thornock, D Ella Johnson, F/M Sarah Chambers
Key newcomers » D Taylor Campbell Isom, F Madie Lyons, M Stephanie Ringwood, MF Elisabeth Phillips, F Nadia Gomes
But Rockwood was pleased with what she saw Wednesday night at BYU’s annual Blue and White scrimmage. She said the two players competing to be the starting goalkeeper in 2014 — redshirt freshman Hannah Clark and senior Katherine Snyder — were impressive.
Snyder made 10 saves and Clark had six. The apparent weakness at goalkeeper isn’t a concern, said Rockwood, who is entering her 20th season at the helm. The Cougars play another scrimmage on Saturday night (7 p.m.) against their alumni at South Field before beginning the season on Aug. 22 at Cal State Fullerton. The home opener is Aug. 25 against Washington State.
"It is obviously very disappointing for Hilary to be out. It is a big blow," Rockwood said. "But people get hurt and it is always an opportunity for other people to step up. Kat and Hannah have worked very hard, and they have a year of training. … Whoever ends up playing over the other, they will both be ready."
They better be, because the Cougars will tackle an ambitious non-conference schedule that includes Tennessee, Baylor, LSU, Utah, Long Beach State, Colorado College, Denver and Oregon.
"They know that they have a huge opportunity in front of them," Rockwood said. "We are going to rely on them a lot."
BYU will also rely on its blossoming superstar, sophomore Ashley Hatch. The phenom from Gilbert, Ariz., scored six goals and had seven assists last year and made the all-West Coast Conference Preseason team, which was picked by the league’s head coaches.
"I definitely feel like I am more known now," said Hatch, who took the league by surprise last year. "I feel there could be a target on my back, but it is not going to change how I play."
Junior defender Paige Hunt also made the preseason all-WCC team, but she won’t play this season. The league’s coaches were apparently unaware that Hunt is in Indiana on an LDS Church mission.
"I am sure she is really happy to hear [she is all-WCC]," Rockwood said with a smile. "I am sure her parents are thrilled. We have saved a seat for her in the team room, so we will be ready for her in a year."
There are only four seniors on the roster, including Roy’s Niki Fernandes, who was recently granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA. Of the 26 players on the roster, 18 are freshmen or sophomores.
Rockwood said the Cougars will be young and fairly inexperienced, but fast and skilled. Sophomores Michele Murphy and Taylor Campbell Isom are back after medical redshirt years, and the coach is excited about an outstanding freshman class that includes former Alta High stars Bizzy Phillips, Shaylyn Orr and Madie Lyons and 5A MVP Nadia Gomes of Brighton
"I think we have tremendous speed overall," Rockwood said. "We have always had a very athletic and quick team, but I just think we are deeper with the addition of our freshmen."
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