Utah women’s soccer coach Rich Manning has lived through the rivalry with BYU long enough to know what everyone should expect when these teams meet.
Manning’s pregame forecast Friday night included “a touch of crazy and loads of fun.”
That’s exactly how everything played out in the last 20 minutes at Ute Field, where the Cougars ended up having the most enjoyment in the end. BYU’s 3-2 victory came after the Utes rallied to tie the game with consecutive goals. The Cougars’ Madie Gates scored the game winner in the 85th minute.
As a snapshot of the wild finish, her goal came via a deflection of Cameron Tucker’s pass, with the ball bouncing off Gates’ chest and into the net. That’s also where Gates ended up, in the crowded flurry of activity.
Trying to summarize the winning play, Gates said, “I just remember when it hit the net — and I was in there with the ball.”
Call it the latest touch of crazy in this series, to use Manning’s phrase, in a game witnessed by an overflow crowd of 2,606 in the last season before the Utes move into a new stadium.
“It’s always crazy like this against Utah,” said BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood, whose team claims three wins and a tie in the last four rivalry games, traditionally played on a Friday in early September.
BYU is 3-2-1; Utah is 1-3-1, going into a rescheduled game Monday at Utah State.
After a scoreless first half, Rockwood’s strategy involved a lot of crossing passes, and Rachel Lyman executed them well. Lyman assisted Elise Flake for a header between two defenders in the 52nd minute and fed Mikayla Colohan for another successful header at the near post in the 71st minute. Both plays stemmed from runs down the right side.
Understandably, Manning was disappointed with the Utes’ performance to that point. They had recorded five shots on goal in the first half and none in the first 26 minutes of the second half. But the Utes came to life, while BYU’s aggressive style and failure to manage the clock hurt the Cougars, Rockwood said.
Paola van der Veer’s rocket of a shot made it 2-1 in the 76th minute, and both coaches sensed a major shift. “When we scored the first one,” Manning said, “I had a feeling we would tie it up.”
It happened about eight minutes later, when Hailey Skolmoski’s header converted Ireland Dunn’s cross into a tying goal for Utah. Just when the game appeared headed to overtime, though, BYU struck in less than a minute. The Utes maintained their wide-open approach, but they got caught and gave up another late goal, as they did last week in an eventual overtime loss at nationally ranked Kansas.
“You roll the dice,” Manning said. “We had the momentum.”
BYU goalkeeper Sabrina Davis left the game late in the first half after a mid-air collision with Utah’s Tavia Leachman. Davis had just made the best save of the half, tipping Anna Escobedo’s shot over the crossbar. Cassidy Smith was not credited with any official saves in relief of Davis, but she did just enough for the Cougars to preserve the win in the end.