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A ride worth reliving

Photo by Angela Decker. BYU’s Lauren Anderson, left, fights with a Washington State defender for the ball.

The BYU women’s soccer team ended its 2010 campaign with a Mountain West Conference Tournament championship, a season-high ranking of No. 8, impressive victories over three Top 25 teams and an NCAA College Cup appearance.


BYU fans ranked third nationally in attendance for women’s soccer home games, topping many traditional powers, including North Carolina, one of the most accomplished soccer programs in the nation.  The Cougars’ average attendance came to 2,193, while North Carolina averaged 2,122.

BYU goalkeeper McKinzie Olson described how the fans contributed to this season’s success.

“When we are playing at home, it is like having a 12th man on the field,” Olson said. “Most teams we play aren’t used to have so many people screaming and cheering, so it is a big advantage for us. The season wouldn’t be the same without all of our fans.”

The Cougars (16-3-3) exited the 2010 NCAA College Cup on Thursday in the first round of the tournament as they battled in double overtime, only to lose in penalty kicks, 4-3, against No. 25 UCLA in Los Angeles.

Senior Nicole Gilliam gave insider tips as she described the personality of the 2010 team.

“We definitely have a lot of fun as a team,” Gilliam said. “The past few games, we had dance parties before the game started. When we get into our huddle, Nicole Ernst does a little dance to pump us up. We like to have a lot of fun, but at the same time, try to focus. Our team loves to dance and have a good time.”

Olson also spoke about the dance parties they liked to have as a team.

“The biggest thing about us is we are half soccer team, half dance team,” Olson said. “We love dancing all the time. In the locker room when we get ready for the games, there is always music playing. We are always dancing and having a good time. That is definitely one of the ways that our team bonds and gets pumped up and ready for games.”

But this team cannot only dance, it can rap, too.

“We love to rap,” Olson said. “If there is a good, upbeat song that has a rap part we always try to learn it. Everyone goes home and looks up the lyrics and learns them so we can all rap it together, because we think it’s so cool. I don’t know. We are kind of dorks like that.”

Setting aside dancing and rapping, the Cougars had a focused and impressive team with a brilliant offense. This season, the BYU offense was not led by a single player, but by six players who had four or more goals. Jennie Marshall took the top spot with seven, while three players tied for second place with six goals each, including Carlee Payne, senior Kassidy Shumway and Jessica Ringwood.

The team excelled on defense as well as offense, led by Gilliam, Lindsi Lisonbee, senior Mercede Koning and Ashley Bazzarone. 

The upcoming 2011 season is promising for the Cougars, as they have eight returning starters, including a star-studded offense with Marshall, Payne, Ringwood and Lauren Anderson.

The 2011 senior class is full of talented players, including Anderson, Nicole Ernst, Auna Janis-Doria, Hallie Keenan, Marshall and Olson.

Starting 2011, BYU will enter the West Coast Conference, a conference that will challenge the Cougars immensely and prepare them for another run at the NCAA College Cup. Joining the WCC will pit the Cougars against the likes of No. 2 Portland and No. 19 Santa Clara.

BYU coach Jennifer Rockwood is confident in the decision to join the WCC.

“It is one of the top conferences in the country with great programs like Portland, Santa Clara and San Diego, who have had some great years,” she said. “It will be a big challenge for us. We will look forward to focusing on that.”