Provo • Taylor Campbell Isom, Bizzy Bowen, Nadia Gomes, Stephanie Ney, Hannah Clark, Madie Lyons Mathews, Avery Walker and BYU’s other seniors have enjoyed a lot of memorable moments at South Field the past four or five years as the Cougars have climbed to the top of the women’s college soccer world.
But this season hasn’t gone as planned for one of the best, and largest, senior classes in program history.
Untimely injuries and the failure to adequately replace high-scoring stars Ashley Hatch and Michele Vasconcelos have left the Cougars in an unenviable position as they approach their final two home games of the year.
If BYU (5-5-3) wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament for the sixth straight year, it has to defeat No. 13 Pepperdine (10-2-2) and Loyola Marymount (6-5-3) on Thursday and Saturday, respectively, at South Field.
Because of their record, the Cougars can’t expect an at-large invitation to the Big Dance. They simply have to win the conference championship, and the automatic NCAA berth that goes to the winner. BYU has only missed the NCAA Tournament twice (2011 and 2004) since 1996.
The Cougars have been facing long odds since they dropped their West Coast Conference opener to San Diego, 2-1, on Sept. 29. Their final four league games are on the road at Gonzaga, Portland, San Francisco and Santa Clara.
The San Francisco game was supposed to have been played last week, but unsafe air conditions in the Bay Area brought on by the Northern California wildfires forced the postponement of that game to Nov. 2.
But first things first. Pepperdine is 4-0 in WCC play, shutting out all four of its opponents and scoring 11 goals. Led by WCC Player of the Week Bri Visalli (10 goals, three assists), the Waves crushed Gonzaga 4-0 last week and have won six straight.
Pepperdine downed BYU 1-0 last year in Malibu, Calif., and the series is tied 4-4.
The Cougars seemingly found their offense after falling to San Diego and subsequently defeated Saint Mary’s 4-1 and Pacific 2-0.
Mathews and Gomes have combined to score nine goals and assist on five, and Walker has added three goals and two assists.