(Photo by BYU Photo/Aaron Cornia)
PROVO, Utah – The BYU women's soccer season officially gets underway Wednesday, as the team begins fall practice.
Head coach Jennifer Rockwood's team is coming off another West Coast Conference title and returns 18 of its 21 players who appeared in games a year ago. The Cougars are playing one of their most challenging schedules ever, featuring a game against last year's national champion, Penn State, an exhibition against 2013 champion UCLA, and games against Pac-12, Big Ten, SEC and WCC opponents.
"We're really looking forward to training with this group," Rockwood said. "It's great to be returning so many experienced players. The girls have been working camps since June, so I believe we're more prepared than ever with our fitness and technical training."
Nadia Gomes was named WCC Player of the Year last season and is on the watch list for the Hermann Trophy, college soccer's top individual award. Three BYU players—Gomes, Elena Medeiros and Michele Vasconcelos—were named to the All-WCC First Team. Rachel Boaz was named conference goalkeeper of the year as she and Bizzy Phillips Bowen were named to the All-WCC Second Team.
Ashley Hatch, who was WCC Co-Player of the Year in 2014, returns after an injury sidelined her for nearly half of last season. Hatch ranks 10th on BYU's all-time scoring list with 28 career goals and is tied for fourth in multiple-goal games with five.
Gomes and Hatch netted third team All-America honors in 2015 and 2014, respectively.
In 2015, the Cougars finished 11-0 at South Field, where they led the nation in home attendance.
BYU won the conference for the fourth-straight season after finishing 7-1-1 in WCC games. The Cougars returned to the NCAA Tournament where they won their first game against Utah Valley before losing in the second round to Stanford.
Freshmen Danika Bowman, Lizzy Braby, Elise Flake and Brynlee Welch form an incoming group that Rockwood thinks has great potential. Rachel Bingham, Alyssa Jefferson, Ella Johnson and Kayci Griffin rejoin the team after returning from missions.
The Blue/White intrasquad game is on Saturday at South Field at 7 p.m. MDT. An alumni game with current and former players will take place on Tuesday, Aug. 9 at 7 p.m. MDT. BYU's game on Aug. 13 at UCLA is the team's final exhibition game before the first regular season game on Aug. 19 at Washington State.