Tori Martyn (3:02), Alexis Alaniz (35:33) and Azia Nicholson (48:32) all found the back of the net to help lead the UTEP soccer team past UAB, 3-2, at University Field Friday evening.
Playing with a purpose and inspired by a boisterous crowd of 620, the Miners (8-6-0, 1-4-0) held advantages against the Blazers (2-11-0, 1-4-0 C-USA) in shots (20-8), shots on goal (8-3) and corner kicks (6-1). The effort improved UTEP to 5-0-0 in El Paso in 2012 while also allowing the Orange and Blue to kick off the crucial four-match homestand on a high note.
The Miners, who never trailed in the contest, had an all-around effort. Tayler O’Hayre registered a pair of assists, with Gino Soto and Martyn also adding helpers.
“That was huge for us,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We’re really excited to get a win tonight. It took a whole team effort. UAB played its hearts out and got some great saves by its goalkeeper.”
UTEP jumped out to the early lead, taking advantage of a foul on UAB. O’Hayre played a great ball into the box, where a perfectly-timed run by Martyn put her in prime position. She elevated above the defense and hammered home the header for her first goal of the campaign.
UTEP kept the pressure on after the tally, looking to expand the lead. A corner kick was cleared away by the Blazers’ defense at 7:28while a shot from Tess Hall whistled just wide at 8:07.
The visitors then began to assert themselves offensively. A shot by Paige Hoffman was turned away by Miners’ GK Sarah Dilling at 8:48. UAB continued to possess deep in UTEP territory, though, and it would result in the match-tying-tally.
Dilling turned away a shot by Paige Hanks, but the ball remained in the area. She tried to push it out of harms’ way but it ended up being corralled by Jane Emma Smith, who put the rebound chance home at 9:40.
UTEP regrouped nicely following the tally, and controlled play for the remainder of the stanza. Martyn (20:45) and Hall (21:38) misfired wide in a quick span. UAB netminder Courtnie Northern then fought off a shot by hall at 23:10.
The Miners, who outshot UAB 7-1 over the final 30 minutes of the first half, would eventually be rewarded for their efforts. It came courtesy of Alaniz, with Soto setting her up on a throw. The freshman controlled the ball, took a dribble and then unleashed a shot from the far left side. It sailed past Northern before clanking off the post and ending up in the back of the net for her first goal as a Miner.
UTEP looked poised to extend the lead before half, but Northern managed to make three saves in the final 10 minutes of the period.
The energy carried into the second stanza, and it paid off in the form of the third goal of the night for the home side. A foul on UAB set up a free kick. O’Hayre directed the ball into the area, where once again Martyn was in the mix.
This time her header was blocked, but UAB was unable to get the clearance. Nicholson took advantage of the situation, blasting home the loose change.
To its credit, UAB countered eight minutes later. A nice sequence of passes led to a cross by Smith to Johanna Liney, who powered a shot past Dilling into the upper left corner of the net at 56:49.
UTEP kept its composure despite the Blazers cutting their lead to one. Rather than pull back on their attack, the Miners amped it up in an effort to just overwhelm UAB. The effort almost paid dividends in the 65th minute with a shot by Amanda Pak, but it was cleared off the line by the Blazers’ back line.
From that point on, it was only due to the efforts of Northern that the Miners didn’t pull away. She robbed Nicholson at 73:17 while stoning Hall on a shot from just outside the 18-yard box on a free kick at 75:03.
UTEP also had a pair of corners in the sequence, but the close calls proved to be a moot point as it closed out the contest in style.
The Miners will continue the homeswing by challenging Memphis at 1 p.m. Sunday. Rudy’s Country Store And Bar-B-Q will provide free food as part of a pre-match tailgate. Additionally, individuals who wear orange will receive free admission.