Behind a goal from sophomore Mackenzie German (36:38), great ball possession and quality play from Sarah Dilling, UTEP defeated Sam Houston State, 1-0, to win the third-annual Border Bash Shootout at University Field Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (6-2-0) were the better team throughout the tilt, outshooting the Bearkats (3-5-0) 21-6, including 10-3 in tries on goal. It was only the play of SHSU netminder Kyle Hambleton- who finished with nine saves- and the fact that two shots by UTEP hit the post/crossbar that the outcome was in doubt until the final whistle.
Dilling made three saves, including a highlight-reel stop in the 66th minute, to post her third shutout in the past four games. She also punched out a dangerous service on a free kick with two minutes to play.
Azia Nicholson was credited was an assist for the Miners, who have won two straight and five of their last six.
“Overall I’m pretty happy with the way we played,” head coach Kevin Cross said. “The effort was there. The hustle was there. We just need to sharpen up things on our finish. I give credit to our team defense and our back four.”
It was evident from the opening moments that the Miners would be the aggressors. They recorded four shots in the first four minutes, including a wicked strike by German that bested Hambleton before cruelly clanking off the crossbar.
Brittany Kindzierski whistled a shot that snuck over the crossbar at 15:33. Four minutes later, German’s attempt was corralled by Hambleton. The wind then started to be a factor, but UTEP adjusted.
With a little less than 10 minutes to play in the period, UTEP headed up the pitch. Nicholson found German, who then lofted a cross back toward her. The keeper was fooled, though, and the ball took a hop, hit the far post and ended up in the back of the net.
The play put the Miners up 1-0, and they would easily carry that advantage into the locker room.
UTEP kept the pressure on in the second half, pestering Hambelton with five shots on goal over the first 17 minutes. She was up to the task though, with a point-blank stop on a shot by Skye Schultz (51:28) and a diving save on a rocket from Kindzierski at (61:50) highlighting her efforts in the sequence. The one time she was bested, on a long shot by Kenah Linger, she was bailed out by the post.
A foul on the Miners gave SHSU a great chance from about 25 yards out. . Shelby McDaniel laced a shot that whistled past the wall. Dilling reacted well, using perfect form on a dive to tip the try wide.
Playing with poise, the Miners re-dedicated their attack in a try to notch an insurance tally.
Kindzierski, who had four shots on goal in the game, blasted a try that Hambleton somehow managed to fight off in the 80th minute.
The close calls proved to be a moot point, with the Bearkats unable to best Dilling.
The Miners will now be on the road for their next five matches. UTEP will renew the battle of I-10 with NM State in Las Cruces at 4 p.m. MT Wednesday before christening Conference USA play with four straight road tilts.