Provo • Come Friday, BYU soccer coach Jennifer Rockwood is expecting a huge crowd to cheer on her team as it hosts Boise State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament.

And why shouldn't she?

The No. 2-seed Cougars have led the nation in attendance this year, both in accumulative and average attendance.

And the team loves playing at home, Rockwood said. It gives them a huge advantage.

“We play very well here in front of our home crowd and on South Field,” Rockwood said. “There’s just more excitement. We’ve played, and proven to play, well on the road — especially this year — but there’s nothing like playing at home. I think that’s what everybody’s always shooting for in the NCAA, for the opportunities to play home games and that’s a huge opportunity.”

Last season, BYU finished third in average home attendance (2,084) behind Texas A&M (2,562) and South Carolina (2,300). The Cougars also came in seventh for total home attendance (16,668). It was the biggest drop in attendance in recent years.

(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)
(Christopher Cherrington | The Salt Lake Tribune)

But this season, BYU improved on those numbers — and did so in a big way.

During the Cougars’ nine 2019 regular season home games, 29,181 total fans showed up — close to doubling last year’s attendance. And their average attendance grew by more than 1,000 (3,242).

But most surprisingly, the South Field stadium capacity is listed as 4,200, yet 5,036 fans showed up Sept. 6 when BYU hosted Utah.

The smallest crowd the Cougars welcomed all season at home was 2,099 against Pepperdine.

Why the growth in interest in BYU soccer? That could easily be answered by looking at the record (18-0-1).

For the first time in program history, the Cougars ended the regular season undefeated and are the only team entering the NCAA tournament without a loss.

Their sole draw this season came at Santa Clara.

Although the record may paint one picture, senior forward Elise Flake said the team has dealt with difficulties as well. And the team hopes to use the lessons learned from those game to help them in the postseason.

“There’s been a couple of games where we’ve had to come from behind and those have kind of tested us,” Flake said. “But in every instance, we know that we’re confident that we can win. I think that’s the biggest thing for us is just, even if we get scored on, we’re confident that we can come back from that and find ways to win.”

As long as BYU continues winning, the Cougars have a chance to host at least through the third round. But first, they have to get through Boise State — an opponent they’ve never faced before.

And junior midfielder Mikayla Colohan hopes the big crowds at South Field will only add to their home-field advantage.

“Obviously, leading the country in attendance is huge,” Colohan said. “I think it’s going to be a shock for everybody that comes and plays us at our place. We love playing at home. The fans, the field, everything – it’s just where we want to be.”