Azia Nicholson (77:43) and Jade Babcock (87:13) each scored, and the defense did the rest in the UTEP soccer team’s 2-0 conquest of Southern Utah at the UCR Invitational Friday evening.
The Miners (4-1) outshot the Thunderbirds (0-3), 19-11, including 8-1 in shots on goal, on the way to extending their winning streak to three.
UTEP’s pressure was steady from the opening whistle, with only the play of Southern Utah goaltender Charly Booth keeping the match scoreless for the first 77 minutes. The Miners would not be denied, though, with Tayler O’Hayre sending a ball from midfield into the area. Skye Schultz redirected it to Nicholson, who settled it and sent it home for her third tally of the campaign.
Babcock put the game out of reach after finishing a cross from Mackenzie German 10 minutes later.
UTEP turned in a quality effort defensively. Sophomore GK Sarah Dilling had to only make one save to register her first shutout of 2012. Her counterpart finished with five saves while the Southern Utah team was credited with a stop on a shot from Babcock midway through the second half.
“I was really happy to get the win,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We really dug deep, picked up our level in the second half and found a way to win.”
The Miners were the more polished team offensively early, forcing Booth into three saves over the first 18:50 of the match. Tess Hall, the reigning C-USA Co-Offensive Player of the Week, was denied at 4:45. German fired a bouncing ball on net at 13:42 while Brittany Kindzierski was turned away at 18:50.
The Thunderbirds earned a corner kick in the 26th minute, but UTEP’s stop troops took care of the service. The Orange and Blue then pushed back up the pitch with the intent of breaking the deadlock. Babcock laced a shot which was gobbled up by Booth at 27:51.
Dilling was finally called upon with three minutes to play in the first half, collecting a chance by Madison Wood. Hall generated a chance in the final minute of the stanza, but it was blocked away by the SU defense.
Things turned chippy in the initial stages of the second period, with both team being tagged with a pair of infractions over the first six minutes.
UTEP managed to reassert control of the contest, but shots by Taylor Kidd (56:19) and German (57:30) were off the mark. Hall re-directed a header on target only to have Booth make the save. The Miners nearly broke through six minutes later. Babcock’s shot bested Booth but it was cleared as it moved toward the line by the Southern Utah defense
The Thunderbirds found some offense on the ensuing possession, but the Miners’ defense got in the way of consecutive tries to thwart the chance in the 67th minute. The flurry handled, UTEP rededicated its attack.
Halls’ shot was wide at 75:13 but the Miners remained committed and would break through two minutes later thanks to the play of O’Hayre, Schultz and Nicholson. Any chances of the Thunderbirds pulling off a late comeback were dashed with Babcock’s second goal of the season with three minutes remaining.
UTEP will look to continue its winning ways when it challenges host UCR at 2 p.m. MT Sunday.