POSTED: Sunday, November 6, 2011 - 4:57pm
UPDATED: Sunday, November 6, 2011 - 11:40pm
The UTEP soccer team pushed No. 4/6 and unbeaten Memphis to the brink before being edged out on a golden goal from Kaitlyn Atkins at 102:50 in double overtime in the 2011 Conference USA Championship at the Mike Rose Soccer Complex Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers (21-0-1) struck first on a tally by Christabel Oduro at 58:25 but the Miners (11-8-4) showed great resolve in rallying to force extra time thanks to Brittany Kindzierski’s equalizer off a feed from Tess Hall at 74:30.
Freshman Sarah Dilling was spectacular in net for the Miners (11-8-4), delivering multiple-highlight reel saves on the way to finishing with a career-high 10 stops. Her effort was aided by the play of UTEP’s team defense, which made Memphis work for every shot it generated and contributed a team save from senior Jessie Pettit at 69:38.
Tiger netminder Elise Kuhar-Pitters was credited with three stops, including a nice save on a header by sophomore junior Azia Nicholson during the first OT period.
Dilling, Kindzierski and senior Katie Dorman, who had two of UTEP’s three tallies during the tournament, were each tabbed to the all-conference tournament.
“I am super proud of our team,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “They showed the heart and character that we knew that they had. During conference we had a few tight games and tied a few that we were winning so we put it all together and got healthy in the tournament. I told them that I was really proud of them and I couldn’t ask any more of them. They had an excellent season.”
The setback brings to a close the Miners’ tremendous run at the tournament, in addition to their 2011 campaign. UTEP toppled second-seed Colorado College, 2-1, in the quarterfinals on Nov. 2, advanced into the finals on penalty kicks (0-0;3-1) over Rice on Nov. 4, before ultimately coming up just shy vs. the homestanding Tigers Sunday.
The future appears bright for the Orange and Blue, who have piled up 136 victories while posting 10 straight winning seasons. Thirteen individuals started 10-plus matches for UTEP in 2011, with nine of them being either freshmen or sophomores. But the focus on Sunday for the Cross-in his 11th year-, was entirely on locking up with Memphis on its home pitch.
The Miners had a great chance in the early stages off a set piece. A bouncing ball was half-volleyed by Dorman with ample pace. It was blocked by the arm of a Memphis defender, in what was deemed to be an unintentional touch at 7:23.
Dilling was called upon for the first time in the 15th minute, and she came up big. She stoned Oduro on a point-blank try before robbing Kylie Davis’ rebound shot with a diving stop to her left. UTEP quickly countered, earning a corner kick on its ensuing possession but Hall’s foray into the area was snatched out of the air by Kuhar-Pitters.
Oduro generated a great look in the 21st minute, with Dilling using picture-perfect form to record the stop. Seven minutes later it was the Orange and Blue on the attack, earning back-to-back corners but they couldn’t convert. Good defensive shape by each side limited chances for the duration of the stanza, and the match was scoreless at the break.
The Tigers pressured almost immediately in the second half, but Dilling showed great reflexes with a quick dive to her left to keep out a low, hard shot by Davis at 48:08. She then utilized a dive to the right to tip a shot by Oduro before pouncing on the rebound it in the 53rd minute.
Memphis finally broke through a few minutes later, with a pass into the box that led to Oduro being able to turn. She bested Dilling with a shot that snuck into the far corner.
UTEP kept its composure after the strike, refusing to let the Tigers pad their advantage. The hustle and effort paid dividends with the match-tying tally with a little more than 25 minutes to play. Hall deftly touched a nice ball into the area which ended up at the foot of Kindzierski.
She took one dribble before rifling the shot past a helpless Kuhar-Pitters to pull the Orange and Blue even.
The teams traded chances down the stretch, with both netminders posting a pair of stops to send the match to OT.
It was a similar story in the first extra session. Oduro found some space to work with in the 91st minute but Dilling was there to make the save. In the waning minutes of the period some quality passes set up Nicholson with a golden chance, but her header on net was handled by Kuhar-Pitters.
The lone shot second OT period proved to be the match winner. Oduro won the ball in the corner and fed a cutting Atkins who finished the chance.