BYU’s Mikayla Colohan named country’s top college soccer player following team’s ‘magical’ season

Brigham Young University’s Mikayla Colohan has been one of the United States’ top college soccer players for several years and is accustomed to interacting with the media.

So when the Latter-day Saint midfielder was asked a potentially “divisive” question, she answered with the same savvy and grace she shows on the soccer pitch.

Reporter’s question: “So, Mikayla, when you marry pro baseball player Jackson Cluff in a few days, who will be the family’s best athlete?”

Colohan’s diplomatic response:

“I would say Jackson, but we go back and forth,” she said, laughing. “It is a big rivalry.”

Colohan’s athletic bona fides are certainly well-established. Days after the Cougar soccer team played in its first national championship game, on Dec. 6, Colohan was named Top Drawer Soccer’s National Player of the Year.

The player of the year honor was a nod to her talent. The Kaysville, Utah, native scored 18 goals in 2021, second most in the nation. When not kicking or heading balls into the back of the net, she was usually setting up one of her Cougar teammates, recording 16 assists.

Colohan finished her college career with 53 goals, second most in BYU history.

She is also an academic all-American after earning a degree in exercise and wellness with a 3.63 grade-point average.

BYU’s Colohan-led 2021 season ended with an unprecedented run through college soccer’s Final Four.

“It was an incredible year,” she told the Church News. “We had some struggles at the beginning … but we all came together and changed our mindset. It turned into a special season. It was a super fun group to be a part of and we were able to make history.”

Colohan almost wasn’t a part of BYU’s magical soccer run.

Earlier this year, she was selected by the Orlando Pride of the National Women’s Soccer League, even though she had not formally applied for the league’s college draft. Still, when she visited Orlando prior to the fall college season and learned more about the Pride, she entertained thoughts of skipping her final year of college eligibility to play professionally.

“I found myself reevaluating my initial decision to stay at BYU,” she said.

Brigham Young University soccer star Mikayla Colohan was named Top Drawer Soccer's 2021 National Player of the Year.
Brigham Young University soccer star Mikayla Colohan was named Top Drawer Soccer’s 2021 National Player of the Year. Credit: BYU graphic

Ultimately, she opted to return to Provo, Utah, after much prayer and discussion with her family. “I’m really happy that I came back because there were a lot of things that I still wanted to accomplish at BYU. There was unfinished business.”

Colohan reports to her maiden professional camp in late January. But first, she will marry Cluff in the Draper Utah Temple early next month. Colohan’s fiance is a former BYU baseball player and now part of the Washington Nationals organization. 

While eager to begin her pro career, Colohan already misses playing for the Cougars. She credits much of her soccer success to personal relationships she built with coaches, teammates, academic mentors and others in the university’s athletic department.

She adds she will be forever grateful for the BYU fans. Cougar Nation typically showed up in force whenever Colohan and her teammates played on the road. 

Representing BYU — and, by extension, the Church — has been, she said, a blessing and special responsibility. “Soccer is important to us. It’s something everyone on our team loves. It’s our passion. … But we’re also representing something more.”

When the team succeeds, people begin asking questions that go beyond soccer, she added. They want to know what the Church school is all about — especially after the recent national championship game was moved from Sunday to Monday to accommodate BYU’s “No Sabbath Day play” rule.

“That was an opportunity for us to share our beliefs and to [talk about] what we represent and have a testimony of,” she said.

Colohan’s bishop in her young single adult ward said the young soccer star’s work ethic and commitment to her sport reflects her day-to-day commitment to the gospel.

“Off the field, Mikayla does all the things she needs to do to successfully take the next steps in her life,” said Bishop Adam Rasmussen, who presides over the Provo YSA 160th Ward.

Looking ahead, Colohan is thankful that fellow Latter-day Saint players have already made their mark in the NWSL. Former BYU players Ashley Hatch and Michele Vasconcelos are both enjoying success in soccer’s professional ranks.

“I’ve had conversations with both of them,” she said. “It’s good to have [Latter-day Saint players] who have gone ahead of me because I can follow in their footsteps and learn from their examples.”

Additional Cougars honored

Colohan is not the only Cougar being recognized following the soccer team’s historic season.

Her BYU teammate and close friend, forward Cameron Tucker, was named to Top Drawer Soccer’s Best XI Second Team after recording 16 goals and 10 assists during the 2021 season. Tucker will play professionally with the NWSL club Gotham FC.

BYU soccer players Mikayla Colohan, left, and Cameron Tucker pass through a procession of flag-waving Cougar fans on Dec. 1, 2021, as they prepare to travel to California for the 2021 NCAA College Cup.
BYU soccer players Mikayla Colohan, left, and Cameron Tucker pass through a procession of flag-waving Cougar fans on Dec. 1, 2021, as they prepare to travel to California for the 2021 NCAA College Cup. Credit: Rebeca Fuentes/BYU Photo

Meanwhile, the BYU women’s soccer coaching staff was named the 2021 NCAA DI Women’s Staff of the Year by the United Soccer Coaches.

The Cougar staff includes head coach Jennifer Rockwood, assistant coaches Brent Anderson and Steve Magleby, volunteer assistant Madie Gates, administrative assistant Rachel Jorgensen and director of sports medicine Carolyn Billings.

“Jen and her staff are so deserving of this incredible recognition,” said Liz Darger, BYU senior associate athletic director and soccer sport administrator, in a BYU release. “Throughout the season, even through some early setbacks, they kept their student-athletes at the center and didn’t waver from their high expectations and goals.

“Jen, Brent, Steve, Madie, Rachel and Carolyn each understand their unique, important role on the staff and complement each other beautifully. It has been a joy to watch their journey this year.”