(Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The 2005 women's soccer team will be remembered as one of the best in BYU history. After a disappointing 2004 season when the Cougars suffered their first losing season in school history, the 2005 women's soccer team set out to return to its winning ways in the national spotlight.
The team returned 10 starters and added one of its most athletic and experienced freshmen classes. Seniors Jaime Rendich Beck, Charlene Lui and Nicole Anderson led the Cougars, while freshmen Katie Larkin, Jessica Harmon and Whitney Feller immediately made their presence felt on the talented squad.
With renewed determination and dedication, the Cougars stepped up to the obstacles placed before them. Throughout the season, the Cougars continually overcame challenges to reach new milestones and break numerous records.
BYU made some noise on the national scene as the team finished with a 15-2-4 record, the best in Cougar history, which included an undefeated 11-0-1 regular season. The Cougar record included four victories over ranked opponents, including No. 22 Texas, No. 14 Wisconsin, No. 9 California and No. 21 Arizona. BYU beat every ranked opponent it faced throughout the season.
Due to its impressive play, which included a 44-10 advantage in goals made, BYU was ranked as high as No. 6 in the nation before finishing the season ranked No. 23 nationally, and No. 9 in the region. After entering the national polls at No. 15 on Sept. 19, the Cougars remained amidst the nation's best the remainder of the season. BYU returned to the NCAA Tournament for its eighth appearance in nine years and earned its first-ever No. 4 seed.
Cougar fans showed great enthusiasm and excitement as they packed into South Stadium night in and night out, breaking the stadium's scoring record in back-to-back games. BYU finished with an average of 2,257 fans, third-best in the nation.
Rendich Beck continued her dominance in the midfield, frustrating the competition and running circles around her defenders. She led the Cougars with 11 goals and finished second on the team with seven assists.
On the national scene, Rendich Beck garnered several honors, receiving third-team All-America citations from the NSCAA/adidas and Soccer Buzz, as well as honorable mention recognition from Soccer Times. She also made the NSCAA/adidas Region First Team and the Soccer Buzz West Region Second Team.
Two other Cougars earned national recognition as Lui provided strong leadership and field direction during her final season, while Larkin made an immediate impact on the BYU team. Lui received third-team honors from both NSCAA/adidas and Soccer Buzz. She was also awarded an NSCAA/adidas West Region Scholar Second-Team citation for her 3.51 GPA in business finance.
Larkin led the team in shots with 64, netting four goals and assisting on six others. She received second-team All-West Region honors from the NSCAA/adidas and an honorable mention citation from Soccer Buzz.
Sophomore goalkeeper Erika Woodbury, arguably the best goalie to come through BYU, also let her talent shine during 2005. Woodbury finished the season ranked eighth in the nation for goals-against-average and moved into the top position at BYU for career goals-against-average percentage (.859). She was also named to the CoSIDA Academic All-District VIII First Team for her 3.8 GPA in pre-athletic training.
Woodbury helped the Cougar team break two other records. As a team BYU boasted a .493 goals-against-average percentage and only allowed 10 goals on the season.
With such talent on the BYU squad, the Cougars set out on the 2005 season with expectations of returning to their winning ways, regaining national recognition and the Mountain West Conference title.
The Cougars went on a nine-game tear to start off the season, the best beginning since 1997, which saw BYU reel off 23 goals while only allowing two. In an impressive showing on both ends of the field, BYU overwhelmed George Mason, 4-0, in its season opener during the OHANA Hotels & Resort No Ka Oi Tournament. Natalie Nate, Carolyn Swenson, Brooke Thulin and Jessica Harmon each scored goals for the Cougars.
In front of her hometown crowd, Lui scored the game-winning goal in BYU's next game against Hawaii with 33 seconds left in the second overtime period to give BYU the championship title, boosting Lui to Tournament MVP honors. Rendich Beck, Larkin, Swenson, Nate and Claire Thomas were also named to the All-Tournament team.
BYU then returned to the friendly confines of South Stadium for a four-game homestretch. Redshirt freshman Jessica Aqunio made her presence felt in BYU's home opener against Weber State. Aqunio paced the Cougars, scoring her first career hat trick as she led BYU to a 5-1 victory. She also earned MWC Offensive Player of the Week honors for her play.
After defeating Utah State, 5-0, and Denver, 2-0, the Cougars faced No. 22 Texas and put their perfect 5-0 record on the line in front of a record crowd of 3,322 fans. Rendich Beck scored the lone goal of the game as she headed the ball in for her fourth goal of the season in the 19th minute.
Four days later, the Cougars headed to Wisconsin for the Big Toe Soccer Invitational, facing No. 14 Wisconsin in the first game. The game required two overtimes with BYU netting the game-winning goal in the second extra period to get a 2-1 win. With only minutes left in the second overtime, Rendich Beck and a Badger defender were both sprinting up field, each trying to recover a loose ball. It was a one-on-one race that Beck won, putting in the golden goal.
The following day, BYU overcame Colgate, 2-0, to win the Invitational. Four Cougars received individual honors, led by Most Outstanding Offensive Player Rendich Beck. Harmon, Larkin and Aquino were also named to the All-Tournament team. For her work, Rendich Beck earned MWC Offensive Player of the Week honors and was named to both the Soccer America Team of the Week and the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week. Harmon was also recognized as the MWC Defensive Player of the Week.
After beating back-to-back Top-25 teams and boasting an 8-0 record, the Cougars entered the national rankings for the first time during the 2005 season, coming in at No. 15.
BYU then returned to Provo to prove why it deserved to be a ranked team. On a night when the Cougars broke their attendance record for the second time this season, including the second-straight home game, Nate gave BYU fans reason to cheer as she netted the lone goal off a penalty kick against No. 9 California. With 17 minutes remaining in the game, Aquino was tripped during a drive toward the goal, awarding BYU a penalty kick. After what seemed like an eternity in front of the deadly silent crowd, Nate grounded the ball into the bottom-left corner of the net. A record 3,810 fans were on hand to watch the excitement. Nate and Woodbury both received MWC Player of the Week honors for their excellent play.
Struggling to recover from the emotional victory, BYU ended in a 0-0 draw with Eastern Washington the next night, despite outshooting the Eagles 30-4.
The Cougars then traveled to the Valley of the Sun to face No. 21 Arizona and Arizona State, winning both games 2-1 and 3-1, respectively. Woodbury collected seven saves in each game.
BYU then returned home for its conference opener and another four-game homestand. The Cougars could not put everything together at the right time in their first conference game, losing to New Mexico 1-0. The Lobos' Kristine Sweat found an opening in the 35th minute and put the ball into the back of the net. The goal marked the first time this season the Cougars found themselves trailing.
Despite the loss, BYU climbed to No. 6 in the nation, the highest ranking in BYU history. In the Cougars' next three home games, they defeated MWC-newcomer TCU in a 4-0 rout, overwhelmed Air Force, 6-0, and dropped Wyoming, 2-0.
Junior Bobbi Tillotson netted four goals against Air Force, tying the BYU record for most goals scored in a game by a single player. Tillotson's hat trick was the first of her career and the Cougars' second of the season. For her work Tillotson earned MWC Offensive Player of the Week honors and was named to both the Soccer America Team of the Week and the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week. She also finished fifth in the nation for goals in a game and points in a game with eight.
The Cougars finished off conference play with a 1-0 win over UNLV and a 1-1 draw with San Diego State, putting BYU in a second-place tie with UNLV behind Utah. BYU drew SDSU in the MWC tournament, losing in a 2-0 upset.
Despite the loss, the NCAA awarded BYU a No. 4 seed in the NCAA Tournament, marking the first time the Cougars received a seed in the tournament and the eighth time in nine years that BYU earned an NCAA Tournament berth. BYU traveled to Salt Lake City to play Weber State in the first round. The game required two overtimes and a shootout before the Wildcats surprising advanced off a 4-3 advantage in penalty kicks.
Rendich Beck, Lui and Larkin were each named All-MWC First Team, while Tillotson and Anderson earned second-team citations.
Head coach Jennifer Rockwood was named a Soccer Buzz West Region Runner-Up Coach of the Year for her excellent coaching during 2005. After a rebuilding season in 2004 when BYU finished 7-10-4, Rockwood revamped her offense, an offense that proved to be one of the most formidable offenses in the nation.
Without a doubt, the 2005 season was a successful campaign that saw the Cougars surpass numerous milestones and bid farewell to their five hard-working seniors, Anderson, Rendich Beck, Lui, Natalie Evans and Ashley Smith. The future continues to look bright as BYU as several talented players return to next year's team.