EL PASO, Texas – UTEP stayed in contention for a spot in the Conference USA Women’s Soccer Championship with a 2-0 blanking of Middle Tennessee on Sunday afternoon at University Field.
The victory gives the Miners (4-9-3, 1-5-2 C-USA) five points in league play. The top eight teams in the final C-USA standings will make the trip to Charlotte on Nov. 2-6 for the tournament. Charlotte is currently in the eighth spot with seven points with two games to play.
“A couple of games ago we got together and decided that we are going to look at this totally new and kind of have a renaissance of, ‘hey, what’s important and how are we going to enjoy the last four no matter what happens?’,” UTEP Head Coach Kathryn Balogun said. “With that attitude, I think some of the pressure that we have put on ourselves sort of came off. You could see that we played with a little more freedom and a little bit more joy.”
With the win, the Miners cap the week with a split after playing tough at C-USA leader Rice Thursday on the road.
“Even with the loss that we suffered on the road this weekend against Rice, a very good team, there was a little more excitement,” Balogun said. “We had the most shots we have had in a while (in that game), so they are really taking to it, and that’s exciting to see because it’s hard to come back from a long road of drought. Proud of them for doing that. We have a hard game against UNT coming up that we need to get a result in to keep ourselves in it, but it’s all in our hands right now. We just have to focus on us and continue to support each other and help each other through the tough times and grow that confidence that we once had.”
Freshman Mina Rodriguez continued her solid initial season at the collegiate level with a goal in the fourth minute on an assist by defender Vanessa Cabello, who worked the ball forward from the back line to create the opportunity.
It was Cabello again in the 28th minute who set Sophia Lewis up for a breakaway goal to make it 2-0 UTEP. For Lewis, the goal was the first of her career as a Miner.
“Big time contributions for Vanessa off an injury that she suffered,” Balogun said. “She has come in and played a lot of minutes in the last two games. Just the fact that she is able to step up and find the opportunities to get those assists with some longer looks that we have asked her to (focus on) is really good from her.”
UTEP outshot the Blue Raiders (2-10-3, 0-5-2 C-USA) 10-9, including a 7-3 edge in shots on goal. The Miners also posted a 4-2 advantage in corners.
Mariah Scott made three saves for her fifth shutout of the season.
The Miners play at home next Sunday at 1 p.m. against North Texas.