"The team is excited for the opportunity," said USU coach Heather Cairns, now in her 10th season at the school. "BYU is just a fantastic soccer team. You don't get an eighth ranking without doing things right."
Last season, USU qualified for its first NCAA Tournament appearance and, despite the loss of several key players, is a favorite to make it two straight. The Aggies relish the quality challenge Thursday, but first they must score.
Since 1996, BYU is 9-0 against USU, outscoring the Aggies 25-1. Last season, the Cougars outlasted the Ags, 1-0, in Provo.
Five different Aggies have scored game-winning goals in 2012 Kendra Pemberton, Jennifer Flynn, Jade Tarver, Mari Miyashiro and Kylie Dibb. Goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford has won the WAC's Player of the Week award for her position three times this season.
"We have a lot of new moving parts [in 2012]," Cairns said. "We've also had a lot of returning players step into new roles. We're on the same page. We feel like we've got [the changes] figured out."
Utah Pac-12 soccer opener
The Utah (5-1-2) women's soccer team, which hasn't lost since its first match and has outscored opponents 11-3 with five shutouts, begins league play Friday at difficult Oregon State (8-1-0). Kickoff from Paul Lorenz Field in Corvallis, Ore., is scheduled for 8:30 p.m. MT.
The Utes are off to their best start since opening 6-2 in 2005.
Utah volleyball in Huntsman Center
Utah's women have created a home-court volleyball advantage playing in cozy some may say boxy Crimson Court, located in the sub-ground level of the HPER Building. The Utes (9-4) emerges from its bunker to play No. 6-ranked Stanford (8-2) at 7 p.m. Friday in the Huntsman Center, the first time they have played there since the early 1990s.
Prior to that match, Utah opens its Pac-12 schedule Wednesday at 8 p.m. at vastly improved Colorado (10-2).