Ojuka Leads Cougars Past Lobos In MWC Semifinal Game
SALT LAKE CITY -- Playing in the semifinals of the Mountain West Conference Tournament, senior Lydia Ojuka poured it on for the BYU women's soccer team as the Cougars defeated New Mexico 3-2 at Rice-Eccles Stadium in Salt Lake City, Utah.
Ojuka scored two goals in the contest and propelled BYU into the MWC Championship game for the fifth-consecutive year, where the Cougars have won all four MWC titles.
"Lydia stepped it up for us today, " said BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood. "She had a couple of nice goals and gave us that lift that we needed."
In the game, The Cougars needed someone to step up and give them that lift as the team came out flat and struggled to execute throughout the first half.
When the buzzer sounded at the end of the first period the two teams headed to the locker room with the score even at 0-0 despite the Cougars' dominating half where BYU out shot New Mexico 7-1.
Junior Jaime Rendich had a couple of good looks at the goal but was unable to knock any of her three shots through the pipes, including two shots on goal.
With less than 20 seconds less in the period freshman Nicole Jensen sent a free kick into the box where it connected with the head of freshman Annie Zwahlen, but New Mexico keeper Kristen Winters snagged the ball just as it was going to go in the net.
During the half Rockwood challenged the Cougars to pick up their intensity of play and attack the goal.
But only five minutes into the second period, New Mexico came up with the first goal of the game putting the Lobos up 1-0.
Amy Nelson scored for the Lobos as BYU keeper Ashley Smith came up to make the stop on a long passs by New Mexico, the ball was bobbled and Nelson tapped in the ball from 15 yards out.
The Lobos goal seemed to inject new life into the Cougars as the team began pushing the ball up the field and fought to maintain possession, the fighting paid off.
Senior Aleisha Rose answered back for the Cougars and tied the game up at one apiece with a strike from 18 yards out on the left side that zipped past Winters and into the far right corner of the net.
Needing at least one more goal to get the win, Ojuka came up with her biggest goal of the season as sophomore Brooke Thulin crossed the ball into the box where senior Terra Bigelow headed the ball out to Ojuka setting up what would have been the game-winning goal from 12 yards out.
The goal was Ojuka's second of the tournament and seventh on the season, but the former MWC Tournament MVP wasn't finished scoring yet.
With Winters playing up near the midfield line, Ojuka took advantage of the empty net and sent in a bomb from 55 yards out in the 84th minute and scoring what would become the game-winning strike.
Now down 3-1, the Lobos did not give up as the Lobos' Kellee Hafner slipped on past Smith to close the margin to 3-2 with less than five minutes left to play.
However, the Cougars would hold on for the win and advance to the championship game for the fifth-straight year and improved their MWC Tournament record to 11-0.
The MWC Championship will be decided on Saturday, Nov. 8, at 12:00 p.m. (MDT) between BYU and the winner of tonight's match between No. 1 seed Utah and No. 5 seed UNLV.
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