(Source: Robert Casey)
Weber State University soccer player Kendra Smith handles the ball in a game against Brigham Young University in the NCAA College Cup. The Wildcats lost 4-0 to the Cougars.

All good things must come to an end, and the season for the Weber State University women’s soccer team was no exception. After beating Portland State University in the Big Sky Championship via penalty kicks, WSU lost in the first round of the NCAA College Cup to Brigham Young University in Provo on Friday night by a score of 0-4.

Although the final score matched the highest losing deficit for the Wildcats this season, the game certainly felt closer.

Despite good possession of the ball in the first half, the Wildcats got unlucky as a corner kick from BYU took an awkward bounce and deflected off of WSU goalkeeper Ryann Waldman’s glove and into the goal for the first score of the match in the eighth minute.

“We thought that Ryann had it in her hands, but the ball was wet. It was hard to get a hold of, and it dropped,” said sophomore Brecken Holbrook. “We thought we had saved it off the line for a second, but they ruled it in.”

Jaiden Thornock of BYU doubled the score in the 31st minute, leaving the Wildcats goalless and down by two heading into halftime.

“I think when the second half rolled around, the players were pretty upset that they had dug themselves a 2-0 hole, and they came out and played pretty well,” said WSU head coach Tim Crompton, “but you’ve got to have something to show for that, like a goal. If we had got one, it changes the momentum of the game.”

Unfortunately for WSU, that momentum-changing goal never came.  BYU’s Collette Smith and Ella Johnson both put a goal in the back of the net, making the final score of 0-4.

“I don’t think we played as poorly as the score reflected,” Crompton said. “We had some stretches where we were playing the way that we wanted to play. We made two or three key errors on the counterattack, and they certainly made us pay for that.”

One might argue with Crompton’s comment by simply looking at the box score, as BYU outshot WSU significantly, with 19 shots compared to WSU’s six. However, a considerable amount of the Cougars’ attempts came only after Wildcat defender Kellyn Olsen was sent off the field in the 67th minute of play, leaving WSU down one player for the rest of the match.

The NCAA College Cup appearance was the third for WSU, and the first since 2005. While it’s been eight years since the last appearance, Wildcat fans might not have to wait as long for the next opportunity.

The core of this team had been playing together successfully for years, winning five state titles with La Roca, under Crompton’s directon. Not only that, but the solid core is young, with most of the team being sophomores this season.

“I think you’d be hard pressed to find another team in the field of 64 that started a group as young as we have,” Crompton said.

With that youth comes the hunger to win that possibly hasn’t been matched in recent years.

“We have a group of players that certainly aren’t happy that they’re not playing anymore,” Crompton said. “I think maybe 10 years ago, we would be happy to just make the tournament, and that is a big deal because there are a lot of teams that aren’t playing tonight, that didn’t make it this far. But we’ve got players that are looking over their shoulder and want to still be playing, and hopefully this experience will help them get to that place.”

While it may be too early for predictions, it may not be a surprise to many if this team claims three consecutive Big Sky titles over the next two years.

The Wildcats finished the season 10-5-5 overall, and claimed their fourth Big Sky Championship in their eighth appearance. WSU will lose four seniors in Waldman, Sara Thurston, Bailey Eames and Alyssa Amano, but nine of the 11 starters will return to defend their Big Sky title.

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