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BYU hasn’t played in two weeks, but expects to be sharp for NCAA soccer tourney opener. Cougars have been here before.

The Cougars are making their eighth NCAA Tournament bid in the last nine seasons.

(Photo courtesy of BYU Athletics) BYU's Makayla Colohan dribbles the ball upfield during a recent Cougar women's soccer game.

Two weeks after closing out the regular season, BYU will make its NCAA women’s soccer Tournament debut on Saturday. Luckily for the Cougars, they didn’t have to wait the full two weeks to learn their opponent.

On Wednesday night, BYU learned it would face Virginia in the second round. Thursday morning, the Cougars took off to North Carolina. Then, on Friday morning, the team got tested and all came back COVID-19 negative.

The stage is set.

With so much time between games, BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood decided to give some time off to her players, but still ordered up an intra-squad scrimmage last Friday. For the longtime coach, she wanted to build off the team’s strengths heading into the tourney.

“We haven’t really introduced anything new, but just trying to clean things up, sharpen things up,” Rockwood said. “Remind ourselves of how we got here and just trying to find ways to just really be confident. And recognizing we’ve come through a lot and we’re excited to move forward and challenge ourselves.”

NCAA SOCCER TOURNAMENT

BYU VS. VIRGINIA

At Cary, N.C.

When • Saturday, 1 p.m. MT

The team’s goal is simply to win and move on.

In its last tournament, BYU made it to the Elite 8 — just the third time the Cougars advanced that far in program history.

With a vastly different team and completely different circumstances, Rockwood hopes her team can play their style and continue to do what they’ve done all season.

Although BYU only had four returning starters from their Elite 8 team in 2019, there are still plenty of other players on the current roster that were part of that process. Rockwood hopes her players can draw on that experience to have a successful postseason.

“Our seniors have been to the NCAA Tournament several times, and that’s experience that helps with some of the younger kids who haven’t been part of that,” Rockwood said. “I think, if anything, it really motivates you because you know what it’s like to win those first couple of games and you want to get past, further than you’ve been before.”

BYU is entering the NCAA Tourney with an 11-3-1 overall record and one of the nation’s top offenses. The Cougars are tied with South Alabama for most goals scored this season (47).

Following Wednesday’s win, Virginia is 11-4-2 and coming in with fresh momentum. In the first round, SUIE was first to score, in the 11th minute, but the Cavaliers rallied back with three unanswered goals to advance to the second round.

The Cougars and Cavaliers have only met once before, nearly a decade ago when BYU fell 3-2 in overtime.

Because of the unique year every team had to endure, it makes getting back into the tournament that much more special, senior Mikayla Colohan said. This is the Cougars’ eighth tourney bid in the last nine seasons, and 21st NCAA Tournament appearance in its 25 seasons as a program.

“It’s what we work towards all season, in the offseason before we start playing games and it’s always kind of in the back of our minds,” Colohan said. “So it’s just super exciting to be back here and kind of preparing for that first game.”

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