El Paso, TX — UTEP went toe-to-toe with back-to-back NCAA Tournament participant Utah State only to ultimately succumb, 1-0, at University Field Friday evening. Kyle Dibb used a quality strike to put the Aggies (3-0-0) on the board at 46:55, and the visitors held on despite the Miners (2-1-0) enjoying advantages in both shots (13-5) and corner kicks (5-2).
A big factor in the match was the play of USU netminder Jeannie Woller, who notched her third clean sheet of the year after turning away five shots on target. Woller had some help, though, too from her stop troops. Miner sophomore Lauren Katada bested Woller with a header in the 69th minute, but as the ball was about to cross the line the Aggies’ Jessica Hoskin-Killpack cleared it out of harms’ way to the chagrin of the capacity crowd.
Miner GK Sarah Dilling was solid throughout the tilt, recording a trio of stops. The lone blemish was on the shot by Dibbs, which came on a partial breakaway after Jayne Robinson threaded the needle.
“We played well tonight but soccer is a game of chances and we didn’t finish our chances,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We made a mistake, and they capitalized on us. That was the difference in the game, but we played pretty good soccer overall.”
There was an aggressive mindset from the kickoff, with the Orange and Blue generating several good opportunities within the first 10 minutes of the match. Senior Jade Babcock tested Woller 20 seconds into the tilt, but the visiting netminder came up with the stop. The rebound ricocheted to redshirt-freshman Aleah Davis, who misfired high over the net.
In the fourth minute a good sequence of passes led to Azia Nicholson being all alone just inside the 18, but her shot whistled high. Three minutes later the senior had a chance at atonement, with a bouncing ball giving her a great look deep in the box. Woller stood her ground well, however, fighting off the point-blank blast.
Play settled down a bit following the early flurry, with the Aggies’ shape improving. UTEP earned a corner in the 19th minute, but Gina Soto’s redirection off the service was high.
The Aggies’ initial look came in at 29:57, with a weak header by Karlee Campbell easily gobbled up by Dilling.
The Orange and Blue applied good pressure late in period, resulting in a free kick from the corner. Freshman Nicole Lindsay served a promising ball into the box but Woller did well to punch it clear.
The scoreless battle was broken up by Dibb early on in the second half, with a good thru ball setting up her alone in space. She took a dribble and managed to sneak the shot past a diving Dilling and just inside the right post at 46:55.
The Orange and Blue regrouped well after the defensive breakdown, and really controlled the contest from that point on. Babcock provided a great rip off a free kick only to have Woller dive to her right for the save in the 59th minute. The rebound tantalized the Orange and Blue faithful by laying loose in the area for a couple of seconds before the USU defense finally cleared it away.
Hannah Nicholson generated perhaps the second-best scoring chance of the contest 10 minutes later. The freshman used some fancy dribbling to create space and then rocketed the ball toward upper 90’s country with her left foot. Woller timed her leap perfectly, though, and punched it up over the net.
UTEP appeared destined to tie it up two minutes later, with Katada’s header sailing past Woller. It bounced right in front of the line before the USU defense was able to stop it on the line and then send it away.
UTEP will look to get back on track when it plays host to Abilene Christian University at 1 p.m. MT Sunday.