TUSCALOOSA, Ala. — The University of Alabama soccer team lost 1-0 in its season opener against #22 BYU.
Despite a handful of near chances at the end of the first half, the Crimson Tide was unable to find a way back after an early concession in the ninth minute.
This was Alabama’s first ever matchup against BYU, which finished last season 13-5-1 after falling out of the NCAA tournament in the quarterfinals with a 2-1 loss to TCU. The Cougars are under the leadership of Jennifer Rockwood, who is in her 25th year as head coach.
“That’s a good team,” Hart said. “That BYU team is going to win a heck of a lot of games and I think if we play like we did tonight, if we battle and compete like we did tonight, then were going to win our fair share of games as well.”
The Crimson Tide came into the game on the heels of two exhibition wins, against UCF and South Alabama, by a combined score of 7-0. Sophomore Riley Mattingly and junior Casey Wertz scored once in each game while freshmen Carly Wyatt and Macy Clem opened up their goal scoring accounts during the two clashes.
Hart, entering his fifth season at Alabama, started four freshmen against the Cougars: Clem, Carlee Giammona, Serena Pham, and Reyna Reyes, who were all in the midfield. Wyatt and freshman midfielder Allie Berk also got into the game.
“A lot of those freshmen didn’t play like freshmen,” Hart said. “They don’t look like freshmen, they don’t play like freshmen and if they keep getting better like we think they are, then were going to be okay.”
Alabama came out flat to start the first half, unable to maintain possession in the Cougar’s attacking third or control the tempo. The lone goal came after a series of quick counterattacks from BYU forwards, with the Crimson Tide defense eventually conceding by way of Mikayla Colohan, who after collecting the ball from a cross on the right wing by Lizzy Braby, slotted her effort low to Alabama goalkeeper Alex Plavin’s right side.
The Crimson Tide began to slowly find its feet in the match with the first big chance coming in the 31st minute when Wertz’s far-post header forced an impressive save out of BYU’s Sabrina Davis.
Alabama’s final big moment of the first half came in the waning moments when Wyatt bulldozed her way through the Cougar backline, only to see her attempt slip just wide of the left post.
“I think it’s a little bit tougher, little bit grittier group than we’ve had in the past,” Hart said. “We didn’t seem to get rattled. We knew they were a good team. We knew they were going to come at us with pressure. They were able to capitalize and get one early and I think they had the better of the play in the first half but I thought our bench players brought some energy and some quality and as the half wore on I think we played ourselves back into the game.”
The second half was largely contested in the midfield, with neither team finding a foothold or able to make much of a charge. Both sides did find ways to manufacture shots, but very few troubled either goalkeeper.
Plavin was a force between the sticks for the Crimson Tide, coming up with eight saves split evenly among the two halves as well as disrupting play and being decisive in coming off her line to claim crosses. Despite the early concession she put in one of the top performances for the Crimson Tide.
The Cougars outshot Alabama 15-9 while also leading the Crimson Tide in corners 5-2. Three players were booked, with Wertz, senior defender Nealy Martin and sophomore defender Abby Bivens all receiving yellow cards. Rachel Lyman was the lone card recipient for the Cougars.
The Crimson Tide will take the field again Sunday at 1 p.m., as it hosts Utah at the Alabama Soccer Complex. The Utes lost 2-0 in their season opener to Clemson.