El Paso, TX — Sophomore Angela Cutaia notched her first career goal to break a 2-2 tie in the 86th minute and lift UTEP to a 3-2 win against Utah Valley University in the season opener for both squads in front an energetic 1,011 fans at University Field Friday evening.
Jade Babcock (18:58), Azia Nicholson (28:51) also scored for the Miners (1-0), while Mackenzie German and Taylor Kidd contributed assists. Junior Sarah Dilling was credited with eight stops, including a point-blank denial off a breakaway for the Wolverine’s (0-1-0) Haley Curtis at 75:47.
Lauren Sack made six saves for the visitors, who received tallies from Curtis (12:22) and Kali Stubbs (44:58). UTEP outshot UVU, 17-10. It is a quality victory, given that UVU has won two straight & three of the past four Great West league championships. UVU is now in the WAC, and was predicted to finish second.
The effort improves the Orange and Blue to 12-1-0 in lid lifters under head coach Kevin Cross, who notched his 150th career victory in the process. Cross now stands at 150-83-12 since being named the program’s head coach in 2001.
“I’m very proud of the team for finding a way to win when we weren’t playing our best soccer,” Cross said. “We had a phenomenal crowd tonight. I’m very thankful for the support El Paso gave us.”
UTEP generated the first chance of the contest, with a good ball setting up Nicholson at the 18-yard box. She took one touch and laced a shot that whistled just wide.
The Wolverines got things going four minutes later, resulting in the first goal of the game. A ball was stolen by Curtis, who curved the shot past the outstretched arms of Dilling at 12:22.
The home side had markedly better ball possession after conceding the goal, and it found the equalizer in the 19th minute. Babcock stole the ball from a UVU player and raced up the pitch. She took it to the 18-yardline and drilled the shot past a diving Sack into the bottom left corner.
The momentum stayed with the Miners, who pulled ahead 10 minutes later. Off a corner kick German served a brilliant ball to the back post, where a streaking Nicholson timed her jump perfectly. The result was a header that rocketed home, affording UTEP a 2-1 advantage at 28:51.
The Miners appeared destined to maintain that advantage heading to halftime, but a bad break allowed UVU to square things up in the waning seconds. Off a free kick from just past midfield, the ball was played into the box. Dilling robbed Lexi Robison but couldn’t corral the loose change, which was tapped in by Stubbs with only two seconds to play in the period.
It was a back-and-forth affair in the second half, with both netminders coming up with big stops. The best save of the match was courtesy of Dilling in the 76th minute. There was a strange bounce after a long service into space that sent Curtis in with no one to beat except for Dilling. The junior netminder sprinted off the line to reduce the angle and stoned Curtis’ point-blank try.
The play energized the crowd and the Miners, who ensured there would be no overtime thanks to the efforts of Kidd and Cutaia. Kidd deftly played a through ball to Cutaia, who deked past Sack and then calmly drilled the shot into the empty net for a true goal scorer’s goal.
UTEP will continue its season-opening six-match homestand when it plays host to Nebraska, Omaha at 1 p.m. MT Sunday.