The 2006 women's soccer team finished ranked No. 17 in the nation. (Photo by Jaren Wilkey/BYU Photo)
PROVO -- The 2006 women's soccer team packed plenty of talent into its roster, placing the team among the ranks of national contenders with a 13-3-4 overall record and earning a spot in the NCAA Tournament for the ninth time in 10 years.
BYU made a splash early downing No. 20 Georgia, 2-0, and No. 21 Colorado, 3-2. Starting the season off 7-1, the Cougars climbed to No. 9 in the nation according to the Soccer Times Top 25 Poll. Of BYU's 18 regular-season opponents, three made appearances in the 2006 NCAA Tournament. The Cougars defeated Idaho State and Colorado, while falling short to Utah.
Due to its impressive play, which included a 26-11 advantage in goals made, BYU improved upon its preseason No. 23 national ranking, concluding the year ranked No. 17 in the nation and No. 6 in the region.
Cougar fans showed great enthusiasm and excitement as they packed into South Stadium night in and night out, shattering the stadium's attendance record on Sept. 8, when 4,742 fans came to cheer BYU to a thrilling 3-2 victory over No. 21 Colorado. The crowd was the second largest for a women's athletic event in Cougar history. BYU finished with an average of 2,070 fans per game.
Sophomore forward Katie Larkin continued her dominance on the grass, frustrating the competition and using tenacious intensity to out hustle the competition. She led the Cougars with seven goals, five assists, 19 points and 68 shot attempts.
On the national scene, Larkin garnered several honors, receiving third-team All-America citations from the NSCAA/adidas, Soccer Buzz and Soccer America. She also made the NSCAA/adidas West Region First Team.
Two other Cougars earned national recognition as sophomore Jessica Harmon and freshman Andrea Willis anchored the BYU defense that only allowed 11 goals on the season. Harmon was an All-West Region Second-Team honoree, while Willis was named to the All-Freshman Team. Willis was also recognized on the NSCAA/adidas Freshman All-America Third Team.
Junior goalkeeper Erika Woodbury, arguably the best goalie to come through BYU, also let her talent shine in 2006. She finished the season ranked 13th in goals-against-average (0.524) and 27th in save percentage (0.851). Woodbury also set the career saves record at BYU with 188 career saves, surpassing Jennifer Waldron who earned a combined 159 saves during her career. During 2006, Woodbury earned another record, collecting 12 shutouts on the season, a single-season best at BYU.
Woodbury was additionally named to the ESPN The Magazine Academic All-District VIII Third Team for her 3.68 GPA in fitness and wellness management.
As a team, the Cougars ranked 12th in the nation for goals-against-average (0.524), 16th for shutout percentage (0.6), 19th for won-lost-tied percentage (0.75) and 20th for save percentage (0.853).
Larkin, Woodbury, Harmon and Natalie Nate were each named to the Mountain West Conference First Team, while Willis was a second-team selection. Willis was also honored as a Co-Freshman Player of the Year.
With such talent on the BYU squad, the Cougars set out on the 2006 season with high expectations of a successful season.
BYU went on a 7-1 tear to begin the season, which included two victories over Top-25 opponents. In an impressive showing on both ends of the field, BYU defeated Weber State, the team that ended the Cougars' 2005 campaign in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, by a score of 1-0.
Four days later, senior Brooke Bowman scored the game-winning goal to defeat Idaho State, 2-1. In the fourth minute of the first overtime period, Carolyn Swenson connected with Bowman for a pass from the baseline. Bowman collected the ball and kicked in the golden goal.
The Cougars then hit the road for the first away matchup of the year. Two sophomores, Alyssa Vander Veur and Katie Fellows, netted goals for BYU in the 2-0 victory. BYU took a 1-0 advantage in the 36th minute when Larkin took a shot off Bobbi Tillotson's corner kick and Vander Veur deflected the ball past Georgia's keeper. The second goal resulted when Fellows took advantage of a breakdown in the Bulldog defense and put away a shot from just inside the penalty box.
BYU then returned home to the friendly confines of South Stadium to face two ranked opponents, No. 21 Colorado and No. 22 Fresno State, on back-to-back evenings. In front of a record 4,742 fans, Larkin, senior Haylee Cuthbert and redshirt freshman Kelsea Kakadelas each scored goals in the 3-2 victory. BYU fell 1-0 to Fresno State the following evening.
Up next for BYU was a four-game road trip, the longest of the season. BYU defeated Pacific and Utah State by scores of 1-0 off two Larkin goals netted with just minutes remaining.
For her efforts, Larkin was named the MWC Co-Offensive Player of the Week, while also being named the National Player of the Week by Top Drawer Soccer. She was additionally named to the Soccer Buzz Elite Team of the Week and Soccer Times Honor Roll.
The Cougars then defeated Washington, 1-0, and tied Washington State, 1-1, in the Pac-10-Mountain West Challenge at Washington's soccer stadium. Bowman scored the lone goal of the game against Washington in the 34th minute when Larkin took a free kick from 12 yards out on the left side of the box. She touched a short pass to Bowman, who blasted the shot into the goal.
Washington State found the back of the net first in the 41st minute the following evening. BYU had to scramble to even the score, finally netting the goal in the 87th minute when Kakadelas flipped the ball up field to Fellows on a breakaway. Fellows snatched the ball from 10 yards out and placed it just passed the goalie.
The next weekend, Fellows again came up big for the Cougars, scoring the lone goal in a 1-0 victory over Arizona.
Jessica Aquino netted her first goal of the season against San Francisco in the final non-conference game to give BYU a 1-0 victory. Woodbury collected two saves on the game and moved into the top position at BYU with 161 career saves. She was named the MWC Defensive Player of the Week for her milestone.
The Cougars started off conference play rocky with a 1-1-1 record. BYU dropped TCU, 2-0, behind goals from Larkin and Swenson, but failed to score against Utah in its following game. Despite scoring two goals against San Diego State, BYU also allowed two goals, forcing the team to settle with a tie.
BYU regrouped for back-to-back wins over Air Force and Wyoming. The lone goal of the Air Force game came in the 65th minute on a free kick that was taken Cuthbert. Her kick sailed into the net after hitting the Falcon keeper's fist. Woodbury set the season-single shutout record at BYU with 12 shutouts in a 3-0 rout over Wyoming. Larkin, Nate and Karen Cook all scored for the Cougars.
Two days after the Wyoming game, BYU was handed just its third tie of the season, as the Cougars failed to match New Mexico's intensity, drawing 1-1. The Lobos got on the board 30 minutes into the game, forcing BYU to play catch up. The Cougars fought hard, but didn't even the score until the 64th minute when Larkin collected a loose ball from the top of the box and blasted in her sixth goal of the season. Neither team was able to score in the two overtime periods.
The following weekend, BYU claimed the No. 2 seed in the MWC Tournament with a regular-season-finale win over UNLV, 2-0. Nate put the Cougars up 1-0 in the 18th minute when she converted a penalty kick opportunity. The second goal came with less than a minute remaining in the first half. Tillotson sent a corner kick from the left side into the field of play. Several players took turns bouncing the ball around before Willis found an opening. The goal, Willis' first of her career, earned her MWC Player-of-the-
Despite the victory over the Rebels, BYU fell to the same team four days later in the MWC Tournament. The game was decided by penalty kicks.
A week later BYU faced Portland in a first-round NCAA matchup that pitted two Top-25 teams against each other. Portland got on board in the 29th minute, but BYU responded strong to start the second half as Larkin evened the score 34 seconds into the half. Senior Katie Smurthwaite passed the ball forward to Larkin, who spun around, split two defenders and netted the goal. BYU's excitement was short lived, however, as Portland went ahead for the final time in the 64th minute.
Without a doubt, the 2006 season was a successful campaign that saw the Cougars surpass numerous milestones and bid farewell to their nine hard-working seniors: Bowman, Cuthbert, Tillotson, Smurthwaite, Amberlea Anderson, Laura Heaton, Jenavieve Phillips, Clarie Thomas and Annie Zwahlen. The future continues to look bright as BYU as several talented players return to next year's team.