The hallmarks of any Rockwood team includes strong defense and keeper senior Ericka Owens as well as an unrelenting offensive attack.
Keying this year's offense is sophomore forward Michele Murphy, who scored eight goals with seven assists in 2012. Murphy and senior midfielder Cloee Colohan should replace the nine goals from departed Jessica Ringwood. Colohan, an Ogden native, transferred from Portland and has already made her mark, scoring twice in a 5-0 preseason beating of Haiti.
"Cloee is such a special player," Rockwood said. "She's such a core to everything we do. She's such a smart player."
One of BYU's two losses came early in the season to Utah. The Utes, who open Friday at Western Kentucky, started 2012 well, and opened the Pac-12 season at 2-1.
Then the roof caved in. Utah, picked to finish ninth in the Pac-12 in 2013, wobbled to a 1-6-1 finish in its final eight games to finish 8-8-3, 3-7-1 in conference. The Utes, who return Pac-12 All-Freshman keeper Lindsey Luke, will field plenty of experience. Defender Avery Ford was selected to a Pac-12 Preseason All-Conference Team.
"Our team tasted some success and gained valuable experience last season," Utah coach Rich Manning said. "We now have a core group of players that have been seasoned by two years of Pac-12 play. They have set high goals for themselves. Our nonconference schedule is designed to put us through hard tests in tough environments. I think we are up to the challenge."
The 2013 schedule is a welcome relief from last year's grinder that saw the Utes play their final five games away from Ute Field. Three of Utah's final five contests are at home, including No. 5 UCLA.
"Though we had a rough patch at the end of last season, I think the players realize how close we are to reaching those high goals."
Utah State, under Heather Cairns, will find new challenges as it enters the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies, picked to finish third, are two-time WAC champions also four of the last five seasons and two-time NCAA participant. They return a veteran presence, including leading scorer Jennifer Flynn, who had seven goals.
USU, which opens its season 4 p.m. Friday against Creighton at Chuck Bell Field, was fueled by a defense that allowed just 13 goals. That part of the field returns three starters.
"We know that the Mountain West is going to be a step up in competition from head to toe," Cairns said.
In preparation, the USU preseason includes four conference champions.
Friday's season openers (all times MT)
BYU • host CS Fullerton, 7 p.m.
Utah State • hosts Creighton, 4 p.m.
Utah • at Western Kentucky, 11 a.m.
Utah Valley • at UTEP, 7 p.m.
Weber State • host Idaho, 3 p.m.
Southern Utah • at CS Bakersfield, 8 p.m.