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Slow and Steady Wins the Race for BYU

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The BYU versus San Diego State game proved to be anything but boring. The Cougars were on their heels through the first half, but managed to put together a great third quarter and settle into the driver’s seat to pull out a hard-fought win against at Aztecs, 13-7.
BYU secured the opening face-off, but was surprised by San Diego’s full-field press defense. The Aztecs’ defense lead by Chrisian Gleason and Adam Gargus forced a quick turnover, and just as quickly scored the first goal by Niko Vlassis. No worries for the Cougs; just settle in and play, right? Wrong! The Aztecs were dishing out aggressive defense from Gargus and Kevin McMahons causing BYU’s offense to sputter, stripping the ball and creating one turnover after another. San Diego goalie Chris DaCar turned away the few scoring opportunities the Cougars had early on, and aiding his team in a fast break that resulted in goal number two from Connor McKeon. As the quarter wore on, BYU backup goalie Adam Litster started feeling it, and both goalies had a number of great saves. The first quarter ended in a defensive standoff and a scoring drought. It was 2 to 0 for San Diego at the end of one.
2000px-BYU_Athletic_Logo.svgAztec faceoff specialist Ryan Hicks grabbed the first draw of the second quarter. BYU’s defense started to come to life picking off a pass. Cougar middie, Spencer Taylor streaked downfield, and finally put BYU on the score sheet. The Aztecs drew a foul, but BYU’s defense held with the help of a save from Litster. BYU was then advantaged by an extra-man offense, but the Aztecs continued their defensive pressure, burning the penalty clock and regaining possession. San Diego took a chance shooting from 20-yards out and scored, increasing the Aztec lead to two. BYU was on the receiving end of an unnecessary roughness penalty resulting in a non-releasable penalty. The Cougars used that opportunity to play catch-up with Jayden Haws finding the back of the net straight down center assisted by Chris Severson, followed by Jack Fabrizio assisting Severson for BYU’s tying goal, a left-side low rip that hit the upper right pipe and then ricocheted into the back of the goal. Defensive frustrations continued for BYU, and the Aztecs made good on their next man-up with a beautiful long-distance screamer from Dodds, retaking the lead near the end of the half. BYU’s long stick middie, Max Nesser, managed to pick a pass from San Diego, returning the ball to BYU offense. Severson assisted Winston Farley who completed a successful circus shot tying the game with 54 seconds left in the half, which ended in a 4 to 4 tie.
San Diego secured the first draw of the second half, but BYU’s defense turned on the pressure quickly unsticking the Aztecs and taking it away. Cougar middie Chase Miller sprinted right side and let one rip scoring unassisted to give BYU their first lead of the game. Momentum swung the Cougar’s way. A messy draw ensued, and Cougar middie, Jordan Higgs snatched up the ground ball. He passed it to Severson who ripped one from the left, and BYU had a two-goal lead. The Aztecs were owning the draw, but the Cougar D had notched it up, stealing the ball again. A BYU shot was gathered in by DaCar, but on the clear Fabrizio snuck up and picked off the attempted pass. He gobbled up the ground ball, and scored easily on an empty net. San Diego was clearly shaken, but continued to excel in the face off. Inspired Cougar defense from Quentin Willey, Harrison Wardle, and Boston Handley continued to mess with the Aztec shot, and Litster easily saved a shot. He cleared to speedy BYU middie, Connor Williams who returned the ball to offense. The Cougars slowed the action, and took a couple of shots that were saved by DaCar. Andrew Bertha dodged from X left to right and hit Miller, who stung the goalie slipping a shot in underneath. After a Cougar man-down that they successfully defended, San Diego committed a foul. Bertha capitalized with an assist from Severson. The Aztecs did not give up. They continued with success in the faceoff, and took a little of the shine off the Cougars by ending the third with a long, outside shot, but BYU was in the driver’s seat, 10 to 5.
The Aztecs were down, but they were not out. Excellent midfield work from Jacob Sandoval and Dodds continued to give them a chance, and they gained back a goal with another great shot pulling them within four early in the fourth quarter. BYU’s faceoff specialist, Jack Vassau started to have more success thanks to excellent wing play from Chase Paulson and Nessar. Cougar midfielders Josh Tunick and Max Ash made significant contributions in ground ball battles and clears. San Diego’s penalty woes continued, and BYU didn’t waste their opportunities. Farley scored giving the Cougs back their five goal lead. San Diego dug in hard with plenty of time left in the game and excellent play from Kevin Leis, Austin Rebek, and Will Mallonee. Tempers flared over a ground ball battle, and BYU was penalized for a hold, a slash and unsportsmanlike all at once. The Cougars had three guys on their knees. Remaining BYU long poles Devin Needs and Willey kept their cool, drawing an Aztec foul just as two BYU penalties released resulting in all-even. The Cougars put their speedy midfielders to work burning the remaining penalty time. San Diego secured one more turnover, and one more late quarter unassisted goal from Dodds, but it was too late to make up the deficit. BYU ended the quarter with two more, one from Severson assisted by Nessar, and the other from Haws assisted by Fabrizio on a final extra-man opportunity. The match ended 13 to 7 for the Cougars.
The first half of this game did not go as expected for BYU. The team was out of sync through two quarters, but managed to bring the fire in the second half. The Aztecs gave it all they had with relentless defense and hard fought draws. In the second half, the Cougars shook off their funk and proved too much to overcome, but San Diego made it very interesting.

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