PROVO, Utah (ABC4 Sports) – The BYU women’s soccer team is moving on to the Sweet 16.
The top-seeded Cougars defeated No. 8 USC 1-0 Thursday night at South Field in a tight, back-and-forth contest to move the Cougars on to the third round of the NCAA Tournament.
Bella Folino scored the only goal of the game in the 58th minute, and the Cougars held on for the victory.
“Our commitment as a team to defend was the difference,” said Folino. “We busted our behinds to get behind the ball and not allow any good opportunities.”
This is the third straight year, and fourth out of the last five seasons, that BYU has made it to the Sweet 16.
“I thought it was a fantastic game for us,” said head coach Jennifer Rockwood. “Right from the start our girls came out with high energy, and we got off to a great strong start. At halftime we talked about trying to be a little bit more direct, getting in the box and Bella was able to find the back of the net for us. Defensively we held strong. Lava and Izzi in the back did a phenomenal job helping keep the shutout which is big against the team as good as USC.”
Thursday’s win was the Cougars’ 18th of the season and extends BYU’s home unbeaten streak to 18 games. It was just the fourth time this season that the Cougars had scored one or fewer goals in a game and the first time BYU won in those four games.
USC ended the game with 16 shots to BYU’s 15. Both teams had six coner kicks, and both teams’ goalkeepers had six saves each, in the very evenly played matchup.
The Cougars will now take on No. 5 Michigan State, who defeated Harvard by the score of 1-0 at South Field earlier on Thursday. It’s the first time Michigan State has advanced to the third round of the tournament in program history. Saturday’s game will be at 6 p.m. on South Field.
BYU’s best chance in the first half came in the 30th minute as Jamie Shepherd fired a shot that forced the USC goalkeeper to dive to her right and just barely corral the ball with her outstretched arms.
USC’s best chance came in the 35th minute, as the game turned into a back-and-forth affair, with chances on both ends. Hernaez settled in as the half continued, bobbling a few saves initially, but catching the 35th-minute chance as the ball drifted high toward the back post.
The half would end without a goal scored on either side. Despite the Cougars maintaining the majority of possession, USC got a myriad of chances in transition and key offensive stats remained very even.
The Cougars came out in the second half controlling play, registering the first five shots of the half.
On BYU’s fifth shot of the half and 13th of the game, in the 58th minute, the Cougars broke the deadlock on the Folino goal. The play started with Peterson winning a ball on the left side of the field and sending a cross right through the goal mouth to a waiting Brecken Mozingo. Mozingo settled the ball and sent a pass into the box where Folino took a quick touch and turn and fired the ball into the back on the net, sending the 4,176 South Field fans into a frenzy.
BYU will be playing for its fifth trip in school history to the NCAA Quarterfinals.