Virginia weathers strong BYU attack, upsets Cougars 2-0 in second round of NCAA tourney

The Cougars made their 21st appearance in the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament, and eighth in last nine years.

(Nate Edwards|BYU Photo) BYU senior Cameron Tucker moves up the field during the regular season finale against Portland on April 17. The Cougars made their 21st appearance at the NCAA Tournament on Saturday.

The 12th-seeded BYU Cougars went into the NCAA Women’s Soccer Tournament with the stronger resume and stronger offensive attack, which was on full display in the opening minutes, but Virginia was more efficient with its chances.

While BYU made it’s 21st NCAA Tournament appearance — and eighth in the last nine years — the Cougars were forced to bow out in the second round due a 2-0 loss to the Cavaliers on Saturday in Cary, N.C.

“We came out and did exactly what we wanted to do in the first half, just not the most important thing which is put the ball in the back of the net,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said on the BYU Radio postgame show. “We let them hang around a little bit too long, and they’re dangerous. But I’m really proud of the way the girls fought. It’s been a great season for us. We’ve played some great soccer. But again, really unfortunate way to end the season.”

The NCAA tourney usually features a field of 64 teams, but the pandemic caused the format to change to a 48-team field. Because of the format change, the Cougars earned a first-round bye.

Virginia advanced to the second round after defeating Southern Illinois University-Edwardsville, 3-1, in the first round on Wednesday.

BYU made its return to the postseason after advancing all the way to the Elite 8 — for just the third time in program history — in 2019 before falling to eventual champion Stanford.

BYU started strong against Virginia, taking two shots on goal within the first eight minutes, and setting the pace for the majority of the first half. But Cavalier goalkeeper Laurel Ivory kept her team in it and prevented the Cougars from running away with the game.

Ivory ended the match with 11 saves — a career high — and no goals allowed to shut out BYU.

The Cougars outshot Virginia 19-11, and 11-4 in shots on goal.

“Those first 15-20 minutes we couldn’t have played any better,” Rockwood said. “It just didn’t go our way.”

On the other side of the ball, the Cavaliers were led by Alexa Spaanstra, who scored both of Virginia’s goals. The first Virginia shot resulted in its first goal.

Spaanstra now has four goals in the NCAA Tournament.

BYU ends its postponed 2020 season with an 11-4-1 overall record.

“Virginia [is] obviously a fantastic team and best of luck to them as they advance,” Rockwood said. “We knew we’d have our hands full, but I’m proud of this team and proud of the way they played. And we’ve got a lot of these girls coming back in the fall. So, we’ll take a break and get ready to roll again next year.”