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Banner Season for Several Local College Soccer Players
By Jason Turner
The Herald Journal


It was a banner year for several Cache Valley women’s soccer players competing at the collegiate level.

Not only did starting left back Jessica Hoskin (Mountain Crest) help lead Utah State to its second straight NCAA Tournament appearance, a handful of other local athletes played key roles on some of their most successful teams in school history.

For starters, BYU captain Cami Jensen (Logan) helped guide the Cougars to the Elite Eight of the NCAA College Cup. It’s only the second time BYU — or any other team from the Beehive State, for that matter — has ever advanced to that stage of the NCAA tourney.

“It was phenomenal,” said Jensen, whose team won a program-record 20 matches in 2012. “We worked so hard this past year after not having the season we wanted to in 2011. ... We really just turned it around, and we knew we’d do really well, but we weren’t expecting to have such a great year because of our schedule and how it was going to be. But we really pulled together and did a really great job.”

At Idaho State, defenders Morgan Olson (Logan) and Taylor McBride (Mountain Crest) helped the Bengals turn things around after winning just five games with most of the same starting lineup in 2011. ISU went 11-6-3 this season and won the Big Sky Conference regular season and tournament championships, which punched the Bengals’ first NCAA tourney ticket since 2006.

Olson, a senior, and McBride, a sophomore, were both in the starting lineup for the lion’s share of ISU’s season.

“We could just tell by spring of (2012) that our team had turned around and we had found our chemistry,” McBride said. “We have such a tight bond, and I honestly think that was the difference of this year. We’re all extremely close and there’s nothing that each of us wouldn’t do for one another, on and off the field.”

Meanwhile, at the junior college ranks, a trio of local competitors helped propel Iowa Western Community College to one of its best seasons ever. Danica Hansen (Sky View), Kasandra Anderson (Mountain Crest) and Morgan Olsen (Mountain Crest) were also starters for the Reivers, who went 19-2-1 and lost a heartbreaking penalty kick shootout to eventual national champion Paradise Valley Community College in the semifinals of the NJCAA Division I Tournament.

“This team and this season was just phenomenal,” said Hansen, who started every match at center back for IWCC. “Like every game, we all just had so much fun playing. Coming into this season, I couldn’t have asked for a better year. ... Every game we all played (well) together, and when we first started playing we all connected really well.”

Additionally, a local athlete helped lead Western Wyoming’s men’s soccer team to uncharted territory. Freshman defender Nate Pierce started at least 11 matches for the Mustangs, who advanced to the NJCAA Division I Tournament for the first time in school history.

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Needless to say, it was a memorable fall for these local student-athletes, especially Jensen, who was a key cog on arguably the best college team to ever come out of Utah.

The Cougars were very motivated headed into the season after not receiving an at-large bid to the NCAA tourney in 2011, despite finishing with a 5-2-1 record — 11-5-3 overall — in the nationally respected West Coast Conference.

“It was devastating when we didn’t get in,” Jensen said.

There was no doubt BYU would get in this season, though — not after winning the WCC with a record of 7-0-1. The Cougars were awarded one of the four No. 1 seeds in the NCAA Tournament and finished the regular season second in the NSCAA/Continental Tire national rankings.

As a No. 1 seed — “it was just very humbling and a great experience to be a No. 1 seed,” Jensen said — the Cougars earned the right to play at home all the way to the final four, should they advance that far. BYU darn near did, beating USU 2-1, Auburn 1-0 and Marquette in penalty kicks to advance to the round of eight.

In the Elite Eight, BYU hosted the nation’s most storied program in North Carolina, which had an up-and-down regular season after missing several key players for long stretches due to their participation in the U20 World Cup. Jensen, primarily a left back her senior year, and the rest of the Cougar backline held firm against a vaunted and athletic Tar Heel attack before yielding a double overtime goal in a 2-1 setback.

North Carolina went on to beat defending champion Stanford in double OT in the semifinals before thumping Penn State 4-1 for its record 22nd NCAA title.

“It was honestly a dream come true ... to finish my career playing North Carolina at home in the Elite 8,” said Jensen, who played 57 minutes off the bench against the Tar Heels.

BYU wouldn’t have earned the right to play North Carolina if it wasn’t for the heroics of Jensen. The Cougars trailed Marquette 3-2 in the fifth round of PKs before No. 4 calmly stepped up and knotted things up in a must-make situation.

“A couple days before (that match), I took 40 PKs because I knew it was going to come down to that eventually, so I was just very prepared and felt very confident,” Jensen said.

A knee injury, sustained early in the season in a road showdown against Utah, limited Jensen’s effectiveness in ’12, but she still started 14 matches as a senior. Jensen appeared in 69 career matches for the Cougars and made 38 career starts — all over her final three seasons.

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Like Jensen, Olson was a four-year impact player at the D-I level. In fact, Olson was a starting center back for most of her four seasons with ISU. No. 20, an honorable mention all-Big Sky selection as a freshman, made 61 career starts for the Bengals.

Olson started all but one match for ISU her first two seasons, but a horrific injury her junior year led to some trying times. In Idaho State’s final non-conference game of 2011, Olson went up for a 50-50 ball against a much taller Utah Valley player, who caught the Logan native with an elbow to the face.

The impact of the elbow “broke my cheekbone on contact,” Olson said, “and my cheekbone went over and broke (bones) in my nose, and I broke some blood vessels in my eye. And so it was just kind of my whole face that didn’t look too pretty. That’s pretty much what happened in a nutshell.”

Olson, who needed two surgeries for her injuries, didn’t return until the final two conference matches, and she had to get used to playing with a mask. She even had to wear the mask the following spring.

“But the worst part of it was just kind of getting my (starting) spot back because I was so used to having my spot,” Olson said.

Indeed, Olson was in and out of the starting lineup as a senior. She still started 14 of the team’s 20 games, but came off the bench in ISU’s 3-0 first-round NCAA loss at Stanford.

“It’s so true how people say that the bad things make the good things better,” Olson said. “It was awesome. It couldn’t have gone any better, my senior year and being able to go out with a conference championship. And then to go to Stanford, it was the coolest thing in the world.”

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McBride, the Bengals’ right back, played 83 minutes against Stanford and led the squad with two shots on goal.

“You know, when we first all heard about (playing Stanford), I think kind of our gut feeling was like, ‘Oh crap,’” McBride said. “But at the same time (we were also thinking), ‘Bring it on. We had nothing to lose and this was just such an awesome opportunity for us to be able to play such a big time school.’ And I think, altogether, it was just a great experience.”

The sophomore from Wellsville played in 19 matches this season and made 13 starts. Like Olson in 2009, McBride was selected as the Bengals’ top freshman in 2011, when she saw action in 17 games.

Cache Valley’s three players at Iowa Western might have been crowned national champions if it wasn’t for a bout of bad luck.

The Reivers’ shootout loss to the Pumas ended in controversy. IWCC led 4-3 in the shootout when Paradise Valley’s Jessie DeLeon approached the ball for her PK and then stopped, which is a no-no. As a result, DeLeon was issued a yellow card.

“She went up to go kick it and it looked like she was going to kick it, but what it seemed like was our goalie judged the way she was going to go ... so the girl stopped right before she was going to kick it,” Hansen explained.

During the flow of a game, a player must leave the field after receiving a yellow card, but according to a press release on the NJCAA website, there is currently no rule in place forcing a carded player to come off the field during a shootout.

DeLeon was granted a second opportunity and was successful. The Pumas ended up prevailing 5-4 in the shootout, which was a necessity when the two teams were knotted at 1-all after 110 minutes of soccer.

Match officials and NJCAA representatives met with both head coaches after the game, according to the release, and it was determined the final result was official. Hansen, however, did not mince words as the Hyde Park native said she felt “gypped” by the decision.

Paradise Valley ended up winning the championship match in convincing fashion, 3-0, for its second title in three years.

Iowa Western entered the tournament ranked third nationally, which was much higher than its No. 15 preseason ranking.

Anderson, a freshman from Nibley, started all but one match for the Reivers. The midfielder finished fourth on the team in goals (15) and assists (nine). Olsen, a sophomore from Providence, started 18 matches at left back, and scored two goals and assisted on four others.

IWCC won its first two matches at nationals.

Western Wyoming’s men went 1-1 at nationals and didn’t advance past pool play. The Mustangs finished the season 15-10-1.

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jturner@hjnews.com

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