El Paso, TX — Senior Jade Babcock scored twice (23:58 & 47:06) and UTEP’s defense did the rest in a 2-0 conquest of visiting UC-Riverside during the 14th-annual Border Shootout at University Field Friday evening. Fellow classmate Azia Nicholson assisted on each tally as the Miners (3-1-1) ran their unbeaten streak in the Border Shootout to 16 (15-0-1).
Elizabeth Silas was credited with four saves for the Highlanders (1-3-1), who were outshot 11-to-4, including 6-3 in shots on goal. UCR did earn eight corner kicks, but the Miners’ defense dominated in the air.
“It was a huge win,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We showed a ton of character, and I’m super proud of the team tonight. We had good focus tonight and finished our chances. It was a really good, overall team effort tonight. “
UCR created some unrest for the Orange and Blue faithful early by earning two corners in the first four minutes. There was no cause for concern, though, with the defense easily winning the services into the box.
Mackenzie German created the initial opportunity for UTEP in the eighth minute, streaking up the wing. She then turned toward the net and laced a shot, but the Highlanders’ defense blocked it away. The aggressive play opened up some cracks in UCR’s defense, leading to a pair of UTEP corner kicks in the 14th minute. The home side was unable to take advantage of the chances.
Three minutes later it was the visitors with two more corners, where both services were headed away by the Miners’ backline.
UTEP then went back to work, and this time it paid off in the form of the game’s first goal. Nicholson delivered a perfect ball to Babcock in the middle of the box. Babcock one-timed it with ease past a hopeless Silas, who had no chance on the play.
There was a more physical tone to the tilt after the tally, resulting in a yellow card for UCR’s Brienna Diaz at 29:26. UTEP kept its composure in spite of the style, and it carried the 1-0 lead into the break. The lone chance in the stanza was by Lindsey Ahmed at 40:27, which was gobbled up by Dilling.
The Miners opened up the second half with great energy, and they extended their advantage to 2-0 at 47:06. Once again it was the tandem of Nicholson and Babcock joining forces. Nicholson picked up a ball in space and threaded the needle with a thru ball to a streaking Babock. Silas was left all alone, and Babcock made it look easy with a wicked strike to the near post.
Freshman Nicole Lindsay tested Silas in the 62nd minute, but this time the GK was up to the task. She used her fingertips to push the try wide. UTEP did not capitalize on the corner.
Dilling preserved the two-goal advantage thanks to cat-like reflexes on a tricky point-blank shot by Jessica Olafsen at 68:20. She managed to push it wide, and the Orange and Blue defense took care of business on the ensuing corner.
She was called again at 80:06, showing good form in saving the try by Kelly Velasquez.
UTEP will face Stephen F. Austin in the championship contest of the Border Shootout at 12 p.m. MT Sunday.