Playing the field

No. 2 BYU Cougars

(13-2-3, 4-1-2 MWC)

BYU comes into the Mountain West Conference tournament having won its past four games, handing UNLV, New Mexico, Wyoming and Air Force consecutive losses on its way to the No. 2 seed in the tournament.

Katie Larken leads the Cougars into the tournament with six goals and five assists on the season. The sophomore forward has made quite a name for herself in conference play and will surely be a vital piece of coach Jennifer Rockwood’s puzzle. Under coach Rockwood’s tutelage, the Cougars have made eight NCAA appearances in the last nine years.

Her prowess, combined with a tough defense, will prove a tough adversary for all opponents in the tournament. At the forefront of that defense is goalkeeper Erika Woodbury. Woodbury has consistently improved since stepping on campus two years ago and has had her best season to date this year. The junior is allowing an average of 0.48 goals per game and has recorded a career-high 11 shutouts this season.

Cody Brunner

No. 3 UNLV Rebels

(8-10-1, 3-4 MWC)

UNLV will look to rebound in the Mountain West Conference tournament after losing its last two matches against BYU and Wyoming. Despite the losses and a 3-4 conference record, UNLV still snagged the No. 3 seed in the tournament with the help of a tie-breaker over New Mexico.

Offensively, the Rebels are led by forward Armani Rice, who comes in to the tournament with five goals and one assist. Countering Rice’s attack on the other side is Jessica Destito. The junior has racked up three goals and four assists in 19 games played for the Rebels.

On defense, goalkeeper Ciera Nero has held opponents to 1.15 goals per game, but has allowed three goals in the Rebels’ last two losses.

Cody Brunner

No. 4 New Mexico

(8-6-4, 2-2-3 MWC)

New Mexico’s women’s soccer team enters the Mountain West Conference tournament as the No. 4 seed after tying for third place in conference play.

With an overall record of 8-6-4 and a conference record of 2-2-3, the Lobos hope to make a splash in the conference tourney as they did last year when they upset nationally ranked Utah in the second round to advance to the championship match, which they lost to UNLV 1-0.

If the Lobos beat first-round opponent San Diego State, they’ll meet No. 1 seed Utah with another chance to end the Utes’ season on a bitter note.

The Lobos, coming off of a double-overtime tie with No. 2 seed BYU, are led by forwards Bridgette Sanchez and Kristine Sweat, as well as goalkeeper Shannon Adragna, who has posted eight shutouts this season.

Natalie Dicou

No. 5 San Diego State

(6-11-2, 2-3-2 MWC)

The Aztecs stumble into Salt Lake City having dropped their last four games of the regular season-all of the shutout variety. They haven’t scored a goal since blanking Wyoming 2-0 on Oct. 15.

Scoring goals hasn’t even been the team’s biggest problem this season. Keeping opponents off the scoreboard has been a much bigger handicap, as the Aztecs have yielded a conference-worst 1.47 goals per game. Led by sophomore Jen Mello-who is second in the MWC with eight goals and 19 points-the Aztecs have proven they can be competitive at times, just not on a consistent basis.

They played BYU to a 2-2 draw earlier this year and destroyed then-No. 21 (and Big 10 power) Purdue 4-0 in late August. But the defense has just been too leaky, and the offense has gone into hibernation at just the wrong time.

Chris Bellamy

No. 6 Wyoming Cowgirls

(7-8-3, 2-3-2 MWC)

Going into the Mountain West tournament, the Wyoming Cowgirls look a little woozy after stumbling through a rollercoaster ride of wins, losses and draws during the tail end of their conference schedule.

Now that Wyoming has eked into the tournament as the sixth seed, leaders like Emily Layton must work to orient the team before it enters tournament play.

Layton-a freshman-led the Cowgirl offense with three goals and three assists on the year. While Layton is working to control the midfield, the Cowgirls will also look to keeper Ashley Sheppard to keep opponents off the scoreboard.

Sheppard will try to harvest the glimpses of brilliance she exhibited in her five shutouts on the season-none of which were more important than the shutout she recorded in the second-to-last game of the season against UNLV-which happens to be Wyoming’s first opponent in the tournament.

Tony Pizza

Lennie Mahler

Wyoming goalkeeper Ashley Sheppard makes a leaping stop during the Cowgirls’ 2-0 loss to top-seeded Utah on Oct. 27 at Ute Field.