PROVO, Utah (ABC 4 Sports) - Goals by Jessica Ringwood and Marissa Nimmer led the BYU women's soccer team to a 2-1 victory over Utah State in the opening round of the NCAA tournament Saturday afternoon on South Field.
"It was a huge win for us in our first NCAA tournament game this year," said head coach Jennifer Rockwood. "We drew a really tough opening round against Utah State and we knew that it was going to be a battle once we found out we were going to play them. We were able to bounce back from their early goal in the second half and do what we needed to do to hold on and get the win."
BYU got on the board first with a goal from senior Jessica Ringwood off an assist by sophomore Jaiden Thornock with 15 minutes left in the first half. Thornock pushed the ball down the right sideline before crossing the ball to the middle where Ringwood knocked it home. The goal was Ringwood's team-leading ninth of the year and Thornock's sixth assist on the season.
The Cougars got on the board again just 10 minutes later when Marissa Nimmer scored on an assist from Kayla Varner. Ringwood pushed the ball upfield, passed it into Varner who one-touched the it towards Nimmer who was then able get the ball into the bottom left corner of the net. The goal was Nimmer's fourth of the season and the assist was Varner's second.
BYU's offense created numerous scoring chances early in the game, placing many shots just wide of the frame and tallying 10 shots in the half. The BYU defense did its part by holding strong in the first period and limiting the Aggies to just five shots with Ashley Bazzarone and Lindsi Lisbonee Cutshall pushing back all the Utah State scoring chances.
A minute into the second half, Utah State was awarded a free kick close to midfield. The Aggies sent it in and put a shot on goal. BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens deflected the ball but the ball didn't clear the box. From a group of players around the ball, Jackie Tillotson found the back of the net to bring the score to 2-1.
With 15 minutes left in the second half, the Cougars began to push the momentum by keeping the ball on their offensive end and earning a couple of free kicks close to the box. The Aggies responded by making a run of their own, turning the tempo their way. Utah State sent a shot on goal from just outside the box and Owens made a spectacular save, pushing the ball over the crossbar to thwart the attack.
After allowing the early goal in the second half, the Cougar defense held strong while allowing Utah State only four more shots in the last 45 minutes. The offense created many scoring chances and registered nine more shots in the half, led by Ringwood's three.
With the win, BYU will host the 2nd and 3rd rounds of the NCAA Tournament. The Cougars will host Auburn on Thursday, Nov. 15 at 6 p.m. MST live on BYUtv and online for free at byutvsports.com/gameday.
Thursday's earlier game will be played at 3 p.m. with Marquette playing against the winner of West Virginia and Princeton. Winners of Thursday’s games will play Saturday, Nov. 17 with the time still to be determined.