BYU women’s soccer: Cougars snubbed again

Oct 10, 2015; Provo, UT, USA; Cosmo the Brigham Young Cougars mascot cheers in the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 10, 2015; Provo, UT, USA; Cosmo the Brigham Young Cougars mascot cheers in the game against the East Carolina Pirates at Lavell Edwards Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Rob Gray-USA TODAY Sports /

BYU women’s soccer was one of the best programs in the nation this season. But the NCAA doesn’t care and snubbed the Cougars in the tournament for the second straight year.

The BYU women’s soccer team has been doing work.

16 wins earned. Only two total losses given up, each by a single goal. One of them came from a dubious PK call. The scored 54 goals. Their opponents managed 9 goals, total. They ended the season with the No. 7 RPI, a No. 3 national ranking, and road wins over incumbent national champion Penn State and ranked Ohio State.

The reward for their efforts? A No. 4 seed in the NCAA tournament.

This means that unless seeds No. 1-3 in their bracket all lose, the Cougars get only a single home postseason match. That includes one-loss South Carolina, who is the host, and leads the nation in attendance. It’s not impossible that they might drop one against 11-9-1 Alabama State, but the odds aren’t good. Not unless they come down with the plague, or eat some bad fish, or the team bus is struck by lightning.

Even if BYU wins its first match, it’s almost certain they will have pack up and hop on a plane to the Palmetto State for its next opponent.

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South Field had the third highest average attendance this year, drawing numbers perennially higher than all but one or two teams in college soccer. BYU women’s soccer owns a 63-9-3 advantage on its home pitch since 2010. Getting only one more match there after a stellar (at times, dominating) season is, as they say, a freakin’ raw deal.

But that is nothing new for the Cougars.

You know those videos they make of a team’s reactions when they get a seed in the tournament, where everyone goes wild with cheering and high-fives and weird facial expressions? 

The 11-second reaction video posted by the team’s official Twitter account consists of polite, we-are-being-filmed smiles and clapping. And then the celebration dies, and just before the video cuts, the smile on every face drops.

However, the Cougar players and coaches know how to maintain their demeanor.

Senior forward Michelle Murphy Vasconcelos, when asked about the seeding, said that she was “a little disappointed,” but that the Cougars “were expecting a No. 4 seed.” When pressed as to why she expected it, “Murph” just matter-of-factly said, “Because it always happens to us… we knew that the worst that could happen is a No. 4 seed.”

“We haven’t gotten an extra nod by any stretch over the years,” head coach Jennifer Rockwood told reporters.  “We’ll make the most of it. We’re excited to play at South Field one more time.”

They’re not wrong. Aside from when the 2012 team earned a coveted No. 1 seed on a nearly flawless record (18-1-1 before the tournament), the Cougars have always had to plow the hard road.  

Last years’ team compiled a 16-2-1 record and high RPI, but they were left unseeded. After one home match, the committee railroaded the Cougars into a road game vs top-seeded Stanford, a repeat foe for the Cougars, and one of only two losses on the season. The year before, following another WCC championship, they got no home match at all. Just chilly reception up in Colorado.

Certainly no “extra nod” there. Maybe closer to a different gesture you could name.

But as coach Rockwood readily noted, the BYU Cougars can only control what they can control. The Cougars face the University of Nevada Las Vegas in their opening round match, Friday night at 7 PM MST. UNLV is the Mountain West Conference champion, and while the team isn’t a strong as it has been in years past, the Rebels have BYU women’s soccer’s full attention. 

“You play against who the committee gives you,” Rockwood said. “So that’s all we can do right now.”