Provo • Last year’s 2-1 loss to TCU in the NCAA Tournament’s first round was devastating for BYU. Elise Flake really believed the Cougars had what they needed to go further, yet they were eliminated at the start of their postseason run.
But last year’s experience has only fueled the Cougars — and Flake — to do better.
Now, in her final season at BYU, Flake wants to lead the Cougars to the championship game, but first the team will have to get through this weekend. No. 2-seeded BYU is hosting the second and third rounds of the NCAA tournament.
North Carolina State will face off against No. 3 seed Arkansas at 3 p.m., while the Cougars will go up against Louisville at 6 p.m. Thursday at South Field. The winners of each game will play Saturday at 6 p.m.
“Oh, we're going all the way — that's the goal,” Flake said.
In last week’s first round game against Boise State, which the Cougars went on to win 5-1, the Broncos kept pressuring Flake and Mikayla Colohan — the team’s two best scorers.
But the Cougars have the depth to go elsewhere for goals.
Throughout the season, 15 different players account for BYU’s 73 goals. Against the Broncos, four different Cougars scored.
NCAA SOCCER TOURNAMENT
BYU VS. LOUISVILLE
Where • South Field, Provo
When • Thursday, 6 p.m.
Flake said there are different ways a player can score and different players who can score, which has been important. But it will only become even more important as the Cougars continue in the postseason.
“She kept two defenders really busy the whole game, so that opened up space for [Cameron Tucker] — who had a great game,” coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “Yes, they marked Kayla, so it was challenging for her to find the ball. But that’s what’s so great — we don’t have one target forward.”
Still, Flake found a way around the Boise State defense and was able to score her 19th goal of the season — good for fifth-most in the nation.
So far, Flake has started in all 20 games and is averaging 67.6 minutes. The senior captain has attempted 68 shots (39 on goal).
“It's been great,” Flake said. “My team has definitely set me up for all of them, so I'm grateful for that. But we've just been playing great as a team lately and it's been good.”
BYU has outscored opponents 73-10. Of their 20 games, the Cougars have shut out opponents 12 times and have given up more than one goal just twice.
The plan is to keep putting up multiple goals this weekend.
“I think just working together as a team is the biggest thing that we focus on,” Flake said. “We love scoring goals ... and it’s just so much fun to be in front of, especially, our fans here at South Field. It’s huge for us to score and start every game on a high note like that.”
The Cougars have never made it past the quarterfinals in the tournament, but they've also never had an undefeated record in school history.
Flake would like to keep making history, but if she isn’t able to, Rockwood hopes her leading scorer enjoys her last postseason run.
“Elise has been such a huge part of what we’ve done this year, as a captain, a leader [and] amazing goal scorer,” Rockwood said. “We just want her to keep having fun, and keep enjoying the moment and make it last as long as she can for all of us and for herself.”