TCU Soccer had a massive opportunity on Thursday night, in a road game broadcast nationally on ESPNU against the top-ranked BYU Cougars (7-1-1; 0-0-1 Big 12) to open Big 12 conference play, followed by a Sunday afternoon contest back in Garvey-Rosenthal vs. Stephen F. Austin to close the non-conference portion of the season. The Horned Frogs earned a draw and a win in the two contests.
TCU 3 - BYU 3
The marquee matchup against the No. 1 Cougars exceeded all expectations. The Horned Frogs certainly did not wilt under the spotlight in the raucous environment, welcoming BYU to the Big 12 with a high energy physical contest right from the opening kick. TCU was on the attack in the 2nd minute and BYU was unable to clear the zone as AJ Hennessey collected the clearance attempt, dishes it to Gracie Brian whose first touches creates enough space from the defender to get a clean look on goal, burying the shot into the back of the net.
Utah native Seven Castain had quite the homecoming in Provo, putting on a star performance on Thursday night. TCU would extend the lead 25 minutes later as Castain made a turn in the box after receiving the long ball from Lauren Memoly, then won the one-on-one battle with the Cougars Goalkeeper to extend the Horned Frog advantage. BYU was most certainly not going quietly into the Utah night, as a free kick set piece in the 36th minute was sent fully across the box to the back post where the Cougar header directed beyond the outstretched arms of TCU GK Lauren Kellett, halving the Horned Frog lead into halftime.
BYU evened the contest early in the second half through the run of play as pinpoint passing led to a clean opportunity on goal to tie the game at 2-2. During this period, TCU star Gracie Brian was nursing an injury on the sideline with her leg wrapped on ice, but her night was not yet over. Brian returned to the pitch to deliver the cross into the six-yard box where a leaping Castain sent it into the goal for her second score of the night, giving the Frogs the lead with a half hour to play. It would be a nervy 30 minutes of soccer as the Cougars sent all power forward and controlled the play eventually breaking through for the equalizer in the 77th minute as TCU had an opportunity at a clearance, but a deflection sent the ball back to BYU Forward Erin Bailey who buried the chance into the net. TCU would play the final few minutes conservatively, much to the chagrin of the 5,400+ BYU fans in attendance, as the Frogs parked the bus with many players battling injuries or cramps, ensuring TCU would earn a point from a supremely difficult road contest in league play.
TCU 3 - SFA 1
After a long road trip, the Frogs returned to Fort Worth and the friendly confines of Garvey-Rosenthal Stadium and returned to its winning ways in the final non-conference game of the season, defeating SFA with a dominant performance on Sunday afternoon. Gracie Brian was back to full strength and again quickly found the score sheet as Remini Tillotson sent a long delivery from near mid-field to the far post where Brian rose above the crowd to send the ball into the net.
Just moments later, Oli Pena would deliver her first goal of the season with a flying header of an SFA clearance attempt to give the Frogs a two goal advantage under ten minutes into the game. Cam Lancaster got into the action in the 2nd half, also earning her first goal of the season, also off an attempted defensive clearance, but this one came in a bit of a slapstick fashion: the SFA defenders blocked a Gracie Brian and looked to boot the ball out of the zone, however the kick was directly into Lancaster’s midsection, who kept attacking the rebound just outside the six-yard box, with the redirection bouncing across the goal line. SFA would score in the second half as TCU’s high defensive line got burned as the SFA attacker avoided the offsides and beat Kellett in the one-on-one opportunity
The Horned Frogs are back on the road this week, on the Big 12 eastern swing, playing at Cincinnati (1-4-3; 0-0-1) on Thursday September 21 at 6 PM Central on ESPN+. TCU will then travel over to Morgantown for the West Virginia Mountaineers (2-5-2; 0-1-0) on Sunday September 24 at 11 AM Central on ESPN+