MALIBU, Calif. — The No. 25 Pepperdine women's soccer team took sole possession of first place in the West Coast Conference with a big 1-0 win over No. 5 BYU on Saturday.
Bri Visalli converted a penalty shot in the 75th minute for the only score of the game in what was a very physical defensive battle. Pepperdine moves to 8-3-3 overall and 3-0-1 in the WCC, while BYU falls to 11-2-1, 2-1-1 WCC. The Waves have yet to allow a goal in conference play, opening the WCC season with four consecutive shutouts.
"The girls played awesome," said head coach Tim Ward. "From everybody on the field to everybody coming off the bench, the energy from the bench, it was entirely a team result today. And it wasn't easy. That team is No. 5 in the country for a reason. I think that team is a team that has the ability to go back to the Elite Eight or maybe even into the Final Four. They are about as good as it gets and it's a great win for our program."
The Waves and Cougars battled through a defensive first half, with both teams getting just one ball on target through the first 45 minutes. BYU's Ashley Hatch made the first dangerous attempt for either team in the game, sending a ball on target in the 11th minute, but Hannah Seabert was there for the save.
Seabert had to make just two saves in the game, but commanded the box on every set piece and didn't let the Cougars get to anything in the air. The Pepperdine keeper now has eight shutouts on the year.
The Waves backline also played a big role in stifling a BYU attack that came into the game scoring 2.69 goals per game, allowing the Cougars to get off just seven shots in the contest.
Visalli drew the penalty in the 75th minute when she was taken down trying to get to a cross in front of the goal. The junior midfielder calmly slotted the kick for her third goal of the year.
"It was awesome to have the opportunity to take it," Visalli said. "Beforehand, the girls were saying that we knew what side she was going to lean toward when trying to save it, and I was starting to second-guess myself thinking that maybe she was going to go the opposite of what we thought. But I just went with my original gut feeling, and she went the wrong way and we got a goal."
"She works so hard and is one of our captains for a reason," said Ward on the decision to have Visalli take the shot. "In training, we have around eight to ten girls who we feel confident and comfortable with taking PK's, and Bri is one of them. In those moments, the girls on the field know who that pool is, and they ask who wants it, and Bri stepped in and said that she wanted it. She buried it. It was a great PK and a great way to secure a victory."
The Waves held off the BYU push the rest of the way. Seabert came out to grab a dangerous cross in the 84th minute, grabbing the ball just inches from the head of a Cougar attacker. The Pepperdine keeper had to make just one save in the second half. That stop came in the 54th minute when she had to dive to stop a close range attempt.
The Waves nearly broke the scoreless tie in the 51st minute, when Rylee Baisden sent a shot just inches over the crossbar. Pepperdine outshot BYU 11-7 for the game and 7-4 in the second half.
Coming into play, BYU had outscored opponents 35-7 and had been held scoreless just twice. Pepperdine is now unbeaten in its last six games.