Women’s soccer falls to fifth-ranked BYU
Last Friday was the 25th anniversary of the University of San Diego’s women’s soccer program. A dozen former USD women’s soccer players took the field at the end of the second half, including USD’s all-time high scorer, and assistant coach Leigh Ann Brown. Brown was inducted into USD’s Chet & Marguerite Pagni Family Athletic Hall of Fame earlier this year.
Also honored was USD women’s soccer team assistant coach and USD alumna, Ellie Magracia.
Before the alumnae players were honored, USD took the field for a fierce battle against the Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars, the fifth-ranked team in the NCAA.
Ultimately, BYU defeated USD in a close 2-1 match.
Senior defender and midfielder, Jacqueline Altschuld, who also serves as the team captain, explained the strategy going into the game.
“We wanted to match their intensity and stick to our game plan,” Altschuld said. “We spent a lot of time focusing on our set pieces. In the past, we have done really well with those.”
Senior midfielder Julia Sherwood said her strategy going into the game was to put on the pressure at the beginning.
“We wanted to get at them with high pressure right away,” Sherwood said. “We didn’t want them to feel comfortable because they were on the road, so we wanted them to feel our pressure upfront. We knew that our defense was strong, and they would be able to hold them off in the back. But gameplans don’t always go as planned. We made a few mistakes early on that resulted in a goal.”
The first half was a struggle to put some numbers on the board. While the two teams fought back and forth, BYU senior midfielder Michele Vasconcelos scored in the first 10 minutes.
USD’s defense had a few passing errors that let BYU’s forwards and midfielders put pressure on USD’s backfield, allowing BYU to get within striking distance.
USD goalie, freshman Amber Michel, made heroic efforts to defend the goal, but BYU succeeded in putting up the first goal.
After the first tally, USD stepped up its defense. Both teams played wide and covered well. The long range shots were deflected, and both the teams struggled to connect with the net.
USD forward Summer Mason had a close shot on goal in the first half. Her speed and skill allowed her to beat out two BYU defenders, but her shot slid right over the top bar of the goal.
BYU took several more shots on goal, but USD’s defense fought hard to interrupt the play and raced to be first to the ball.
USD’s defense and goalkeeper had their work cut out. BYU was relentless, but goalkeeper Michel deflected several Cougar attempts. The team kept the score at 1-0 BYU in the first half of the game.
Head Coach Ada Greenwood told his team to keep being aggressive and give it all in the last half.
“You got to be more aggressive: don’t walk up the stairs knowing that you didn’t put the right mentality and aggressiveness out there,” Greenwood said.
Right out of the second half, USD attacked BYU’s defense with a long shot by junior midfielder, Ally Ocon. The powerful shot looked like it was going in until BYU goalie Hannah Clark made a remarkable save to keep BYU leading 1-0.
BYU continued to fight for a second goal and succeeded in the last nine minutes with a top-shelf close shot on goal.
USD fought back aggressively to keep the ball on BYU’s end. With three minutes left in the game, Sherwood knocked in the first USD goal of the night.
The goal was a result of a strong pass from junior defender, Tara Meier, that deflected off a BYU player and angled enough for Sherwood to get a foot on it. The ball passed right through the unsuspecting BYU goalie.
Sherwood said she wanted to make sure she made contact and get a goal.
“I saw it coming, and I immediately thought, ‘I want to hit this [the] first time,’” Sherwood said. “I thought it was going to be more of a volley, but it was a side foot and snuck in on the side post. I guess I placed it well. I just wanted to make sure I made good contact.
“Their defense was really spread out and no one was on me, so I just went for it and shot it, and it snuck in.”
While BYU made several attempts to run down the clock, USD fought to get one last goal. On the last corner kick by USD, goalkeeper Michel even abandoned USD’s goal to help out and have all USD’s players in front of BYU’s goal. The last stitch effort was ultimately unsuccessful. The game ended with BYU on top 2-1 as USD failed to convert an equalizing goal.
Goalkeeper Michel said BYU had some good shots on goal, but was thankful for a great defense.
“It was very unlucky, [but] they were good shots,” Michel said. “We just need to make sure we move forward from here and get the wins on the road this week. The defense is always backing me up and working as a team and pushing forward, and our team mentality is really good.”
Coach Greenwood explained areas his team did well in.
“I felt like we made a couple of small mistakes that can transition into high percentage opportunities,” Greenwood said. “If we would have [taken] care of the ball a little bit better, we could have really dictated the game a little. I felt like the first half we were solid to good, and the second half we were more aggressive […] the right way we needed to [be].”
Greenwood also shared areas that he said USD might be able to improve on going forward.
“Unfortunately, we were lacking a little quality in the final third,” Greenwood said. “That was the difference in the game for us. We weren’t thinking ahead consistently, which is a big part of the game—thinking ahead and communicating comes into that.
“I felt we were just half a step off with a lot of things early in the game,” Greenwood said. “At times, we were very good and caught them on their back foot. At the end of the day, we just we didn’t execute. Obviously, [we] got a late goal, but we needed to get that earlier.”
Altschuld explained what the team’s next steps are moving forward.
“We have to stay focused,” Altschuld said. “It’s a tough loss, but we have three very important games ahead of us to get a bid into the tournament and keep playing our game.”
This is the second to last home game for the senior players. Captain Altschuld kept the team motivated by reminding them it’s not over and to keep pushing forward so the team could advance to the NCAA tournament.
“We all just want to keep the program going in the right direction for the younger kids and end on a good note for us,” Altschuld said.
BYU is currently 13-2-1 overall, with one loss in the West Coast Conference (WCC). USD is 8-7-1 with three losses to conference foes.
USD needs to have a successful next three games to secure a spot at the NCAA tournament. The next two games are on the road against Pacific and Saint Mary’s.
The Toreros head back home for their last home game of the season on senior night on Nov. 4.
Written by Jennifer Givens, Asst. Feature Editor