Fueled by goals from Tori Martyn (51:23, 58:02), Tess Hall (65:03) and Jade Babcock (81:05) and a total team effort on defense, UTEP defeated No. 22 (Soccer America) Memphis, 4-1, at University Field Sunday afternoon.
The Tigers (9-4-0, 5-1-0 C-USA) had been riding a 25-match unbeaten streak in Conference USA play (30 including the league tournament) but the Miners (9-6-0, 2-4-0) were not intimidated and dictated play from the opening whistle. The past two losses against C-USA foes for the Tigers have both come against UTEP, which also bested them 2-1 on Sept. 26, 2010.
UTEP enjoyed a sizeable advantage in shots on goal (9-3) while also holding the edge in total shots (17-11). The Orange and Blue executed a well-conceived defensive game plan to perfection, which kept the league-leading U of M attack out of sync for most of the match.
Following an exciting, albeit scoreless first half, UTEP came alive. Martyn hammered home two headers off beautiful services on corner kicks from Hall to propel the home side out to a 2-0 lead. The Tigers answered almost immediately after conceding the second tally, taking advantage of a rare miscue by GK Sarah Dilling.
A long foray into the box took a bad hop and Dilling, who had a pair of saves, couldn’t quite control it. The loose change was tapped into the goal by reigning C-USA Offensive Player of the Year, Christabel Oduoro (58:32).
UTEP kept its composure, and reinstated a two-tally cushion after Hall put away a rebound on a shot by Babcock just seven minutes later. Babcock added a goal of her own after intercepting a bad pass by Memphis GK Christina Strickland to wipe out any aspirations of a comeback by the visitors.
The effort caps a perfect weekend at home for the Miners, who improve to 6-0-0 at home this year and 92-14-5 in El Paso since 2002.
“That was one of the best defensive games we have ever had,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “They stuck to the game plan. In the second half everybody gave a little extra, and that’s what made the difference.”
The Miners asserted themselves early, with Hall whistling a shot on frame. Strickland was well positioned to make the save, and then corralled the loose change after a bobble.
The Tigers then pushed the ball up the pitch, but Kaitlyn Atkins’ shot was blocked over the end line by the Orange and Blue. On the ensuing corner, a header by Memphis Taylor Isenhower was off the mark. Babcock drilled a shot that had good pace but it was just high at 15:48 while Tayler O’Hayre rifled a shot wide at 25:40.
A hard foul and ensuing yellow card against the U of M’s Diamond Simpson gave Hall a great look on a set piece late in the stanza, but Strickland came through with a brilliant stop. She timed her jump perfectly and tipped the shot high. Memphis had a good chance late in the stanza, but UTEP blocked the shot by Tina Schryvers.
The Miners didn’t take long to dial up the attack in the second half. From a corner, Hall found Nicholson alone on the back post. She headed it well only to have it hit the side of the net. The close call became a distant memory 56 seconds later, with another corner kick.
Hall delivered a brilliant feed to Martyn, who took care of the rest with a skillful header. The duo hooked up again seven minutes later, with an almost identical sequence affording the Miners the aforementioned 2-0 lead.
The advantage was short lived, with the mishandled clear allowing Oduro to get the Tigers on the board.
UTEP responded in a big way, scoring twice in the final 25 minutes to close out the contest in fine fashion.
The Miners will conclude their four-match home stand with a pair of contests in the upcoming weekend. UTEP will play host to Southern Miss at 7 p.m. MT Friday before challenging No. 8 UCF at 12 p.m. MT Sunday, Oct. 14.