Soccer overcomes deficit for first NCAA tournament win

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Yazmeen Ryan takes on a defender in TCU’s match against BYU on Nov. 9, 2018. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

With 45 minutes to go Friday night, it seemed like a familiar story was developing for TCU soccer.

After consecutive first-round NCAA tournament losses in 2016 and 2017, a 1-0 halftime deficit to the visiting Brigham Young University (BYU) Cougars sent nervous murmurs around the stands of Garvey-Rosenthal Soccer Stadium.

This time around, there was a different ending in store.

Two second-half goals within five minutes of each other gave the Horned Frogs a 2-1 victory and their first NCAA tournament victory in program history.

TCU head coach Eric Bell celebrates the win against BYU Nov. 9, 2018. Photo by Cristian ArguetaSoto.

“This is a big reason why I came here,” said TCU head coach Eric Bell. “I wanted to build a program that could compete to win national championships and this is the first step toward doing that.”

A historic night for the Horned Frogs didn’t seem probable early in the match. TCU hadn’t played a competitive match in 12 days, and that was evident in a disjointed first-half performance.

“The first half was a little shaky,” said first-year forward Messiah Bright. “I know it was my first NCAA tournament game, so I was a little nervous.”

BYU capitalized on TCU’s slow start, controlling the first half with comfortable possession and an aggressive high press. It paid off in the 23rd minute when junior forward Elise Flake scored on a perfect shot that bounced in off the far post.

The goal was Flake’s 14th in the season and put the Cougars ahead 1-0. BYU head coach Jennifer Rockwood was pleased with her team’s first-half performance.

TCU players celebrate after a goal against BYU on Nov. 9, 2018.

“I thought we played one of our best halves of soccer this season, which is what you want to do in a tournament,” Rockwood said. “We have a great attacking team, and I was pleased with the way we came out.”

At halftime, the 1-0 deficit provided an opportunity for TCU’s team leaders to step forward and make a difference.

“Even before the coaches came in, the players were talking,” said sophomore midfielder Yazmeen Ryan. “Especially the seniors — they were talking about how we were still in it and the first half didn’t represent who we are.”

The Frogs proved that early in the second half. Karitas Tomasdottir made a driving run forward in the 56th minute and found Messiah Bright, who dribbled around one defender and finished into the bottom corner to tie the match.

Yazmeen Ryan added another goal with a solo effort in the 61st minute. Ryan stole the ball from BYU defender Danika Serassio, cut onto her right foot and laced a shot past the BYU goalkeeper for the 2-1 lead.

“Whenever I’m pressuring, I look for the extra touch that a player will take,” Ryan said. “Luckily I stole it and was able to get it on my right foot and score.”

The Cougars raised the pressure late in the match, but the Frogs made some big defensive plays and were able to hang on for a 2-1 victory.

Bell was impressed with the second-half performance.

Kayla Hill shields the ball from a defender against BYU on Nov. 9, 2018.

“I thought we were able to come out and play TCU soccer in the second half,” Bell said. “I’m very proud of our group, very proud of our staff and very proud of what we’ve been able to accomplish over the course of time.”

With the victory, the Frogs are through to the second round of the NCAA tournament for the first time and Bell is confident they have what it takes to compete.

“We have to believe in ourselves and know that we’re a good team,” Bell said. “If we do that, I think we’ll be successful.”

TCU will face Texas A&M in the second round after the Aggies defeated North Texas 1-0 in overtime Friday. The match is set for Thursday, Nov. 15 at a time yet to be announced.