BYU Athletics Blog | 2014

Freshman Quick Kicks: Nadia Gomes

Jul 30, 2014 - Posted by knielsen at 12:01 pm | Permalink

PROVO, Utah – Two months ago, Nadia Gomes was playing soccer in Portugal trying to help the Portuguese U-19 team qualify for the European U-19 Championships.

Gomes was a 5A state champion with Brighton High School and was the 5A girls soccer MVP for both the Deseret News and the Salt Lake Tribune. She played her club soccer with Murray Max where she was team captain, but even though she played a state championship game at Rio Tinto Stadium, her experience in Europe included plenty of larger stadiums and challenging experiences on the field she hadn't been through before.

"It was a cool experience," Gomes said. "I really liked it."

Gomes played in two qualifying tournaments for the UEFA U-19 European Championships over the past year. Her Portugal team won its group in the first round of qualifying defeating Russia, Macedonia and Belarus, but fell short in the final round of qualifying coming in third in the group behind Spain and Switzerland. Gomes scored two goals in six games, starting in four. Group winner Spain lost to the Netherlands 1-0 this past Sunday in the title game. 

Her international experience is something few BYU recruits have on their resumes when they arrive in Provo, but she has already helped some players with her goal-scoring skills in camps this summer.

"I like to give advice to the girls so they can get better," Gomes said.

Gomes and the Cougars start fall camp on Aug. 4. The first scrimmage is the Blue/White game on Aug. 13 and the season opener is Aug. 22 at Cal State Fullerton.

Watch BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood talk about Gomes and the other incoming freshmen in the video below.

Freshman Quick Kicks: Alyssa Jefferson

Jul 28, 2014 - Posted by knielsen at 11:35 am | Updated: July 28, 2014 11:39 am | Permalink

PROVO, Utah – BYU freshman Alyssa Jefferson had a much less stressful summer this year thanks to getting to be an instructor at summer camps instead of being a camper trying to earn a spot on the Cougars roster.

"It's a lot less stressful now," Jefferson said. "It's more fun to be part of the team instead of trying so hard to be on it and annoying the girls."

Jefferson signed to play with BYU last February and has been getting used to how the Cougars play defense this summer.

"It's hard," Jefferson said. "It's a lot more different than club. In club, it's more standoffish and waiting on them. In this, you're on them the whole time."

Jefferson is another member of the seven-time Utah State Cup champion Sparta United club team and played at Jordan High School. She was a three-time All-Region selection and is healthy to start her freshman year at BYU. The other incoming freshmen help her feel comfortable since they are familiar faces.

"It's a blast," Jefferson said. "Even the other two we've played against for so long. It's been fun and it's a good start to know each other so closely, because then you feel comfortable giving them instructions and talking to them."

Fall camp starts on Aug. 4, the first scrimmage is the Blue/White game on Aug. 13 and the season opener is Aug. 22 at Cal State Fullerton.

Watch BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood talk about Jefferson and all the other recruits in the video below.

Freshman Quick Kicks: Rachel Bingham

Jul 23, 2014 - Posted by knielsen at 3:24 pm | Updated: July 23, 2014 3:28 pm | Permalink

PROVO, Utah – Rachel Bingham has been enjoying her month worth of summer camps leading up to the start of her first fall camp with BYU women's soccer in August.

"I've been coming here since I was little," Bingham said. "So it's weird and cool to be demonstrating in front of the little kids. I looked up to the coaches and thought they were awesome, so it's cool to be one of them now."

Bingham is one of a group of Sparta United players whose team won seven Utah State Cup titles in their youth career who have arrived in Provo to play for the Cougars. She played her high school soccer at Maple Mountain High School and participated in the 2013 NSCAA Girls' High School All-American game for the West squad.

Bingham was named first team All-State in 2010, 2012 and 2013 by the Salt Lake Tribune and was UHSAA Region 8 MVP in 2012 as she captained Maple Mountain her junior and senior seasons.

Along with camps, she has been able to play with her new teammates for the first time.

"It's helped a lot with the speed of play," Bingham said. "Coming into it, the speed of play is the biggest thing that's the difference."

As for having played with five of her teammates already on her club team, "it's awesome. It's nice knowing people on the team."

Fall camp starts on August 4, the first scrimmage is the Blue/White game on Aug. 13 and the season opener is Aug. 22 at Cal State Fullerton.

Watch what head coach Jennifer Rockwood had to say about Bingham and the other recruits on Signing Day in the video below:

Sander leads USA to gold

Jul 21, 2014 - Posted by at 11:10 am | Updated: July 21, 2014 11:11 am | Permalink

COLORADO SPRINGS, Colo. – Former BYU outside hitter Taylor Sander led the U.S. Men’s National Team to defeat the world’s No. 1 Brazil 3-1 (31-29, 21-25, 25-20, 25-23) Sunday, clinching the FIVB World League gold medal for a second time in the team’s history.

Sander led Team USA in points for the third-consecutive match. He notched 24 points in the contest on 22 kills, earning him MVP honors of the tournament. He was also named Best Spiker. 

Two and a half months ago, Sander was playing for BYU in the NCAA Men's National Championships.

Taylor Sander played an amazing game,” USA middle blocker David Lee said. “Guys like him are the future, and tonight really couldn’t have worked out better.”

Team USA handled three key phases of the match with Brazil, winning in attacks (60-51), blocks (14-11) and digs (42-40), on their way to the 3-1 win.

With the win, the U.S. joins Brazil (9), Italy (8), and Russia (3) as teams that have won gold more than once at the FIVB World League.

The last gold-medal win for Team USA at the FIVB World League came against Serbia in 2008.

Next up for the team will be the USA Volleyball Cup against Iran in August.

Rockwood ranked 14th out of NCAA coaches

Jul 14, 2014 - Posted by knielsen at 10:59 am | Updated: July 14, 2014 11:02 am | Permalink

PROVO, Utah – BYU women's soccer head coach Jennifer Rockwood was ranked the 14th best coach over the past five seasons by AllWhiteKit.com in its 2014 CoachRank, which was released today. 

The ranking takes into account conference performance, NCAA tournament performance, and is adjusted by the conference's performance. The ranking only includes the past five seasons from 2009 onward.

The West Coast Conference has three coaches in the top 25 with Garrett Smith at Portland, Rockwood and Jerry Smith at Santa Clara coming in at 8th, 14th and 19th, respectively. Rockwood was ranked behind four ACC, two SEC, one Pac-12 and one Big 12 coach.

In-state coaches included Utah State's Heather Cairns at 28, UVU's Brent Anderson at 34, Weber State's Tim Crompton at 100 and Utah's Rich Manning at 106.

Rockwood is a 308-89-32 in her career at BYU and over the past five years has led the Cougars to the Elite 8 in 2012 and the NCAA tournament in four of five seasons. The Cougars have won three regular season conference titles (2 WCC, 1 Mountain West Conference) and one MWC tournament championship since 2009 as well.

For a complete list of coaches, click here.

For an FAQ on the rankings, click here.

Cougars on Good Day Utah

Jul 07, 2014 - Posted by knielsen at 11:50 am | Updated: July 7, 2014 11:55 am | Permalink

PROVO, Utah – BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood along with Jaiden Thornock, Niki Fernandes, Katherine Snyder, Marissa Nimmer and Hilary Smith Kaufusi were part of Fox 13's Good Day Utah and Big Budah's visit to the East Bay Golf Course on Monday morning.

The players and coach helped Big Budah participate in the Ice Challenge as part of the Aloha Golf Classic to raise awareness about breast cancer. The Aloha Golf Classic will take place on Saturday, July 12 at East Bay Golf Course.

Watch the video below and check out the Aloha Golf Classic here.

Hamson competes internationally for USA

Jun 30, 2014 - Posted by Royce Hinton at 9:54 am | Permalink

Senior opposite Jennifer Hamson returned home last week from an 11-day tour in China with the U.S. Collegiate National team.

Originally selected to participate as one of 36 players to play in Minneapolis, Hamson’s group was changed to one of just 12 headed to China.

The team participated in six matches against Chinese collegiate and adult teams.

The program was considered a second tryout for the U.S. Women’s National Volleyball Team.

This was the second year that Hamson participated in the U.S. Collegiate National Team (formerly known as the U.S. Women’s National A2 Team) having previously participated in the summer of 2012.

2014 National Football Media Day — summary and content index

Jun 24, 2014 - Posted by Aaron Sorenson at 5:50 pm | Updated: July 2, 2014 12:24 pm | Permalink

On June 23, BYU held it fourth annual Football National Media Day at the BYU Broadcasting Building. The event featured 15 players, seven coaches, director of athletics Tom Holmoe, former players, including four special guests: Dennis Pitta, Ezekiel "Ziggy" Ansah, Leon White and James Dye, and more than 60 media members including newpapers, radio stations and TV stations.

Starting at 7 a.m. MT, BYUtv televised nationally 21 straight hours of football content, including four hours of new live programming, while five different radio stations, including BYU Radio/SiriusXM 143, were on hand to produce live content from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. MT. Head coach Bronco Mendenhall was interviewed on national radio by Jim Rome, while two of the live shows (State of the Program and Great Moments Then & Now) broadcast by BYUtv were also available on ESPN3 and WatchESPN.

Three hours of live online video chats, including 30 minutes of Spanish chats, were available throughout the day on BYUtvsports.com. Chats were conducted with with more than 15 people including current coaches and players, former players and ESPN college football analyst Trevor Matich.

Media Day also featured constant social media interaction via Twitter, Facebook, YouTube and Instagram. Three current players, Taysom Hill, Jamaal Williams and Michael Alisa, each took time to directly respond to questions from fans that were submitted via Twitter.

Below are some of the interviews, articles, photos and videos from Media Day:

BYU Football: Great Moments Then & Now

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Kyle Chilton at 3:48 pm | Permalink

BYU football legends return to Provo to discuss career highlights, what it means to be a Cougar

Former BYU players Leon White, James Dye, Dennis Pitta and Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah returned to their alma mater Monday to appear on the BYUtv program “BYU Football: Great Moments Then and Now.” The program, hosted by BYUtv’s Dave McCann, gave viewers an inside look into some of the great moments from each of the former Cougar’s careers and the lasting impact BYU leaves on its athletes. 

Leon White, who played linebacker from 1981 to 1985, began the program by giving his perspective on BYU’s magical 1984 National Championship season. White was named Defensive MVP of the bowl game against Michigan, but few know the personal challenges he and his family were facing at the time. 

“My father had been diagnosed with cancer,” White said. “I was ready to quit school and go home to be with my dad, but my mom told me he wanted me to finish the season and finish school.”

Eventually White decided to stay at BYU, and was one of the most instrumental players in BYU’s run to a National Championship. The season finale would be the last game White’s father would attend as he passed away shortly thereafter. 

“He knew I loved football and playing at BYU,” White said. 

The attention then shifted to former BYU receiver James Dye, who played wide receiver and returned kicks for the Cougars in 1995 and 1996. Dye, whose son Trey recently signed with BYU, was a part of a 1996 BYU team that set a school record for most victories in a single season with 14. 

One of Dye’s most memorable plays came on a punt return against Wyoming in 1995. Dye gave his analysis of the play and exactly what went into the moment. 

“The first thing I saw [after receiving the punt] were brown pants,” Dye said. “I figured I gotta get past these guys cause if I can get past these guys, I got the Raass brothers (John and Stan) leading me.”

After spinning away from multiple tackles, Dye ended up pushing John Raass out of the way en route to the end zone. 

“John Raass told me that if I ever pushed him again that I’d have to pitch him the ball,” Dye said. 

Next up on the panel was former BYU tight end Dennis Pitta. Pitta, who played for the Cougars in 2004 and from 2007-2009, was a two-time all-American and a 2009 consensus all-American. Pitta also set the record for most receiving yards by a tight end in NCAA history before being drafted by the Baltimore Ravens, a team that he helped to a Super Bowl Championship in 2012. 

Pitta began his career at BYU as a walk-on, but developed into possibly the greatest tight end in BYU history. Most of the passes he caught over his career were thrown by former Cougar quarterback Max Hall, who is more than just a teammate for Pitta. 

“There came a point where Max and I really got on the same page and we knew what the other was thinking and I think that really translated to success on the field,” Pitta said. “I even went as far as marrying his wife’s sister to really solidify that relationship.” 

The brothers-in-law went on to become one of the most dynamic passing duos in BYU history, and hold claim to some of the most memorable moments in team history, including 2009’s historic win against No. 3 Oklahoma on national television. 

“That’s one of those games where you look back and you’ll never forget what happened on that field,” Pitta said. “Not a lot of people were giving us a chance to win that one.”

Ezekial “Ziggy” Ansah was the final former Cougar on the panel to share some thoughts. Ansah, who was drafted fifth overall by the Detroit Lions after only starting to play football a few years earlier, gave credit to his coaches and teammates for their influence in getting him to where he is today. 

“There was not a day where you wouldn’t hear ‘Ziggy’ come out of [Bronco Mendenhall’s] mouth,” Ansah said. “It wasn’t Ziggy as in a nice way of saying it, he was always on me. He always pushed me.”

In Ansah’s first play as a Detroit Lion, the rookie intercepted a pass and ran it back for a touchdown. Many have praised him for the play, but Ansah had a secret to share about what really happened.

“What a lot of people don’t know is that I was in the wrong place,” Ansah said. “My position coaches were so mad at me.” 

The panel, which also included current quarterback Taysom Hill, finished the program by sharing their feelings about how BYU affected them not only as athletes, but also as people. Hill summed up a running theme that the entire panel included in their final respective remarks. 

“BYU has a much bigger impact on you than you will ever have on the University,” Hill said. “I am constantly surrounded by great people. Whether it’s the guys I’m playing with, the coaching staff or the administrators.”

BYU Media Day quotes from former players

Jun 23, 2014 - Posted by Jason Kitchen at 3:11 pm | Updated: June 23, 2014 3:16 pm | Permalink

Ziggy Ansah

“The NFL is a business. You have to put in the work.”

“One thing that drives me is when someone doubts me.”

On Kyle Van Noy being selected to the Lions:

“Having someone like Kyle joining you in the pros has been great for me.”

“I’m enjoying the moment. Seeing Kyle at OTAs I was thinking, 'who would have thought?'"

Leon White

On playing in front of his father one last time:

“Everyone was thinking about the Holiday Bowl and the National Championship. I was just thinking about getting back to play in front of my dad.”

On 1984 team:

“That was a special defense. No one really knew much about us but we had great linebackers.”

On Playing at Lavell Edwards Stadium:

“It was always an exciting game. We knew we had 60,000 people showing up each game. We loved the passion of the fans and that helped us with our commitment to the game.”

On BYU’s independence:

“There are a lot of obstacles but winning overcomes all those obstacles. BYU has to keep winning to stay relevant.”

Dennis Pitta

On winning the Super Bowl:

“It’s obviously an awesome accomplishment and something I will look back on in a few years. It’s special to be able to say I accomplished that.”

James Dye

“Moving this program into the forefront of pop culture will be important in getting LDS and other Christian athletes who might be interested in what we have to offer.”