New Mexico had an inkling of what awaited in Provo, Utah, in the opening round of the NCAA women’s soccer tournament.
But knowing that BYU has a dynamic offense and seeing it in action are two completely different things.
The fourth-seeded Cougars (14-4-1), who came into Saturday’s match averaging an NCAA-best 3.44 goals per match, eradicated the UNM (14-5-2) defense in the second half to come away with a 6-0 victory. BYU’s scoring average was second best in NCAA history.
It’s the second straight NCAA Tournament game that the Lobos gave up six goals having lost to TCU 6-2 in April after winning their first ever NCAA game by beating Navy on penalty kicks. Against the Horned Frogs, New Mexico held a 1-0 halftime lead until TCU came up with four goals in the first six minutes of the second half.
“I think they’re an unbelievable offensive team,” New Mexico coach Heather Dyche told broadcasters for BYUTV in a halftime interview. “And we knew that coming in.”
But it was the end of the first half that likely will haunt the Lobos.
UNM was playing a strong game of defense, frequently pulling 10 players behind the ball, trading possession for the ability to frustrate BYU’s goal-scoring machine, while waiting for a chance to be dangerous off a counterattack.
And it was working according to plan, although the counter opportunities were rare, especially as the half wore on.
But in the 36th minute, all that plotting and planning went by the wayside.
Lobos defender Myah Isais, facing her own defensive end from about 40 yards out, tried to send a pass back to goalkeeper Emily Johnson. But she caught the ball off the short hop and sent a slow, high bounder backward. Fellow UNM defender Karlee Maes chased after it, as Johnson crashed forward, reaching it first well outside the penalty area.
Her clearance attempt, however, went spinning awry off the side of her foot, falling right to the feet of Cougar Cameron Tucker. She pushed it into the far side of the empty net, just clearing Maes’ sliding attempt at a block.
“Cam hunts balls down,” BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood said at halftime. “We certainly have to find her a lot more.”
That goal drastically changed the direction of the game.
“Unfortunate goal,” Dyche said. “But, it’s going to take a whole lot of effort in this next half to go and get one back.”
The problem, however, was New Mexico could no longer patiently wait back in its own end defending, and instead the Lobos had to take some chances to open up the game in their favor.
It did not work for UNM.
“It was a great first half. We just need to keep doing the same thing, keep attacking, keep things simple, keep the ball moving and we’ll be in great shape,” Rockwood said prophetically.
Seven and nine minutes into the second half, Brecken Mozingo blistered finishes, finding each corner, putting BYU up 3-0. And in the next 16 minutes, the Cougars added three more scores, including a New Mexico own goal.