Late BYU equalizer secures draw in Italian tour finale
ROME, Italy - An 88th-minute goal from Michele Vasconcelos salvaged a point for BYU in a 1-1 draw at Res Roma on Tuesday night in Rome. The result assured BYU of an undefeated record on its four-match tour of Italy, with three wins having preceded the concluding tie. Over the four games, BYU tallied a cumulative scoreline of 18-1.
Res Roma, the women’s Serie A affiliate of the men’s top-tier AS Roma club, was clearly the best outfit BYU faced during its Italian sojourn, and the home side showed its class in dealing with BYU pressure and getting to the interval in a scoreless stalemate. The hosts played aggressively enough to earn a pair of first-half corner kicks, and forced Cougar keeper Rachel Boaz to keep her attention level high, while BYU’s offensive thrusts were not as productive as they were plentiful.
“We had a lot of the run of play, but we didn’t have our players looking to get their shot off,” head coach Jennifer Rockwood said. “We really struggled to put the ball on frame tonight, where we had actually done a really great job of that in our last five or six games.”
“We probably should have had a couple more (goals), but it’s a great way to finish up a really fun trip. The girls battled through, even though things weren’t going their way towards the end, and got the tie.”
Roma opened the scoring in the 72nd minute on a rising shot from 15 yards out that sailed past Boaz’s outstretched left hand; the goal marked the first and only deficit BYU would face in Italy.
“Their player made a great move and hit a perfect shot,” said Rockwood, “and that’s something we need to learn from.”
The Cougars’ response was urgent but focused, ultimately resulting in the Vasconcelos equalizer two minutes from time. A left-flank run from the sprinting Ashley Hatch provided an end-line angle from which to cross into the six-yard box, where Vasconcelos awaited to slot home the finish while holding off her defender.
“We kept fighting really hard,” Vasconcelos said after match, played at the top-notch Stadio Raimondo Vianello complex in Rome. “It was unfortunate that we didn’t push to score sooner, but I was really proud of the way we fought…and then Ashley just getting to the end line, her pass was perfect--it was spot-on. She made my job so easy; I just had to tap it in. She did all the dirty work.”
“I thought we controlled the flow of the game, especially in the second half,” said Rockwood. “It was pretty much all our ball, but obviously we didn’t finish as well as we had before. We had chances, we created chances and the girls fought hard and tied it up with a couple of minutes left.”
The tour wraps up BYU’s extended spring season, which featured 11 games; the Cougars won nine times, with one loss and Tuesday night’s draw. Rockwood believes the Italian portion of the spring campaign will pay dividends down the road.
“I thought it was a great soccer experience for us,” Rockwood said. “We saw some different things that we haven’t seen in the states, and that’s something you always learn from.”
BYU now heads home after ten days overseas; Rockwood called the Italian experience “probably the smoothest” of the soccer program’s five international tours, and said the team “had a special time” visiting Italy over the last week and a half.
“Amazing,” was how Vasconcelos described the experience. “I’m excited to go home, but I’m going to miss it a lot. I feel like we really bonded as a team and had fun with all of our staff, and learned about Italian culture. It was incredible.”
BYU’s final day of sightseeing preceded Tuesday night’s match, with the travel party stopping at the excavated ruins of Pompeii on the way from Sorrento to Rome. Following the game at Res Roma, the players, coaches, staffers, organizers and families enjoyed a “farewell dinner” that included gifts and heartfelt expressions of thanks for the assigned tour guides and bus drivers who accompanied the Cougars during their time in Italy.
Senior defender/midfielder Paige Hunt:
Today was amazing. I started it off by eating the most amazing Nutella-and-powdered-sugar crepe. My mouth is watering just thinking about it. We had some free time before leaving to Pompeii. My mom and I decided to walk around downtown Sorrento one last time and go shopping. I just wanted to take in the scenery. Walking up and down the narrow cobblestone streets is something I'll never forget.
At noon we got on the bus and headed to Pompeii. The tour was incredible. Our tour guide was very interactive. She would tell us to pretend like we were archeologists and invited us to investigate a particular building and to decide if it used to be a shop or a house. I felt like I needed a handy-dandy dirt brush to truly fit the part ;) I learned a lot and am grateful for the opportunity I had to tour Pompeii. We then grabbed a quick snack and headed to our last game of the trip.
We played Res Roma. This team was definitely the best of all the opponents we faced in Italy. They were not as fast or fit as we were, but they were very technically sound. The game ended with a tie of 1-1. Even though we weren't satisfied with the result, we were grateful for the chance to play and grew as a team in the process.
As I reflect on the past 10 wonderful days I have had here in Italy, my heart is full of gratitude for the chance I had to come. Not only was I able to tour and see some of the most amazing cities in the world, but I was with my friends and family while doing it. I also recognize how blessed I was to be born in America because of how supported female athletics are in the U.S. All of us on the BYU women's soccer team are very fortunate and are so grateful for all the love and support we are given. Next stop? Provo, Utah :)
Junior forward Jocelyn Loomis:
Today was last, but surely not the least. After a couple hours left in Sorrento to explore and enjoy the beauty and culture of its costal vibe, we were on the road again--headed to Pompeii! Upon arrival, we met up with our tour guide and headed on our way! What an experience it was to explore even just a smidgen of the vast 60-acre archeological site. While walking through the stone streets and frescoed walls of the ancient inhabitants’ homes, it was hard not let your mind imagine just how life might have been centuries before, in that newly-rich and free town. The technologies of Pompeii were quite amazing and advanced for their existence before Christ. What an enriching experience it was!
After exploring Pompeii we were off to our game against Res Roma! The weather couldn't have been more perfect! As the whistle blew we soon discovered the level of play was significantly better than we'd experienced thus far. And we were out the challenge. After a hard fought game, we ended in a draw. 1-1. Not ideal for the Cougars--we love our wins--but good nonetheless.
After the game, we headed to a yet another gorgeous four-course meal dinner. Our last little hurrah before we depart!
Overall this trip has been a once-in-a-lifetime kind of experience--an absolute thrill and feast for all five of the human senses. We saw indescribable beauty, tasted unmatchable foods (all of which have made our waist bands a bit tighter), heard more rich history than we could've in a lifetime, smelled more sweet gelato than our nostrils could take in, and felt more feelings of excitement, love, and joy for the Italian culture than we ever thought possible. We have been truly blessed beyond measure to have had the opportunity we've had. We love you Italia!! Ciao Bella!