IRVINE — The start to the UC Irvine women's soccer season was all about finishes Friday night.
Two finishes really, the latter proving more unkind for the Anteaters than the one that completed regulation.
The host Anteaters scored with 44 seconds left in the second half to culminate a frantic comeback that tied the game, 2-2.
But BYU, which held a 2-0 lead until the 73rd minute, produced a sudden game-winning goal in overtime that put UCI on the wrong end of its opener for the first time in three seasons, 3-2.
Sophomore Jaiden Thornock knocked in the golden goal just more than eight minutes into the first 10-minute overtime period, turning on a booming ball cleared toward the UCI goal and punching it past goalie Jennifer Randazzo as the crowd watched in stunned silence.
The fateful scoring opportunity nearly covered the span of the field, as perhaps a UCI lineup juiced with adrenaline found itself too far forward.
That was hardly the case in the first 60 minutes, when the Cougars took advantage of some hospitable pockets of space in front of the goal to put UCI in a significant hole.
"We showed them a little [too much] respect in the first half and almost encouraged them to come onto us a little bit," UCI Coach Scott Juniper said. "We were one level above soft to start the game and we were still doing well."
But the Anteaters were down by two before a renewed sense of urgency, sparked in part by aggression brought off the bench by sophomore Jordan Utvich, helped them claw back into it.
A hand ball in the box set UCI's first goal, as senior North Carolina transfer Rachel Wood capitalized on the resulting PK to halve the deficit in the 73rd minute.
UCI, which finished with a 12-8 advantage in shots, kept the pressure on until Utvich used her right back heel to flick a cross from Zoya Farzaneh past BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens with 89:16 elapsed.
The goal electrified the crowd and ignited a celebration on the UCI bench.
Both teams had chances in the final seconds, but overtime was needed in the 2-2 deadlock.
And UCI had the clear monopoly on momentum.
"After we went down, 2-0, it was all us," Juniper said. "We were really excited and the players were psyched to go into overtime. I think for all of us, it was just a case of how long it is it going to take [to get the game-winner]?"
UCI's energy was evident in the extra session, and Wood, a highly touted forward, beat a defender to the ball on the right wing and sent a cross toward a collection of white jerseys in the attacking zone.
But Wood's cross was cleared by a strong BYU defense and it wasn't long before the Cougars were celebrating.
"I felt when [Wood] chased the ball down in the corner, beat the [BYU] girl to the end line and served that ball, I just thought that was going to drop to somebody after the first or second ball and ... ," Juniper said. "But that's the cruel sport we play."
It was the first career goal for Utvich and the first UCI goal for Wood, who was a defender as a Tar Heel.
Niki Fernandes converted a Thornock assist for the game's first goal in the 30th minute, while Michelle Murphy collected, settled, then converted a cross from Dana Cusick to double the BYU lead in the 53rd minute.
Wood had a match-high four shots, while junior forward Natalia Ledezma had three for UCI.
"Our fitness showed through I thought and I'm thrilled that we showed we could come back like that in the game," Juniper said. "On another day, we win that game."
The Anteaters continue their four-game, season-opening homestand on Monday against No. 14-ranked Texas A&M at 7 p.m.