Cougar Beat podcast: Why a national champ came 'home' to BYU women's soccer

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PROVO — Ever since she was 14 years old, Ellie Walbruch knew she wanted to play for UCLA soccer.

It's what drove the Highland, Utah, product and her parents to daily practices with her La Roca FC club team in Ogden, a decision that led to bypassing her high school career at American Fork in favor of the year-round ECNL and U.S. Soccer developmental academy circuit. It's also what drove the incoming freshman to stand out with the Bruins, averaging 19.3 minutes in her inaugural year in Westwood with nine shots, three shots on goal and a goal in Westwood.

The decision paid off, too, when Walbruch was part of the UCLA team that defeated North Carolina 3-2 in extra time, becoming the first team in College Cup history to come back from two goals-down and win a national championship at WakeMed Soccer Park in Cary, North Carolina.

Now, though, Walbruch just wants to come home.

The UCLA transfer spoke to the Cougar Beat podcast after the American Fork High School graduate announced her decision to transfer to BYU for the Cougars' first season in the Big 12.

"It's in my backyard; it's 20 minutes away. BYU has always been there," Walbruch said. "I've been to all the camps every summer; Jen Rockwood was my academy coach when I was 4 years old with Celtic. I've known it, and I I grew up with all the players and always went to the games. It's a full-circle moment, and I'm super excited to play with them. It's going to be awesome."

Walbruch will be immediately eligible as a one-time transfer for the Cougars, with three seasons of eligibility after on a team that brings back third-team All-American Brecken Mozingo and three other players ranked in TopDrawerSoccer's Postseason Top 100 in Laveni Vaka, Jamie Shepherd and freshman Izzi Stratton.

A year after making program history with a run to the College Cup national championship, the Cougars compiled an 11-3-7 record, ranked No. 15 in the final United Soccer Coaches poll, and finished No. 1 nationally in shots per game and No. 2 in shots on goal en route to the Round of 16 of the NCAA Tournament.

And head coach Jennifer Rockwood's side is set to bring back all but one player from that team — and now add Walbruch for a season that will undoubtedly contain sky-high expectations in BYU's first season in the Big 12. None bigger than the players themselves.

"I think we're going to go in and make a huge impact," Walbruch said. "BYU has proven themselves in the WCC, and they're a tournament team. They're putting on great shows in the national tournament, and competing strong.

"We're going to make a huge impact, and we're going to be up there with the best teams in the Big 12."

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