El Paso, TX — UTEP used a complete team effort on defense and a second-half goal from senior Azia Nicholson (63:09) to secure an important 1-0 road victory at Tulsa Sunday afternoon.
Jade Babcock was credited with an assist on Nicholson’s ninth tally on the year, and the Miners’ (10-4-3, 3-2-2 C-USA) stop troops made it stand up. Goalkeepers Sarah Dilling and Keighton Allen and the UTEP defense combined to turn away all four shots on goal for the Golden Hurricane (9-6-1, 3-3-1 C-USA) in keeping a clean sheet.
Shots were 11-9 in favor of Tulsa, but each side registered a quartet of shots on target. The home side did hold an advantage in corner kicks (10-6), but the Orange and Blue’s defense took care of business in the air in defending its box with a vigor.
Play was physical throughout, but UTEP did not let that affect its gameplan. TU was whistled for 13 fouls and issues a trio of yellow cards while the Orange and Blue were tagged with 15 and two, respectively.
The effort moves the Miners to 10-4-3 on the year, including 3-2-2 within C-USA play, while TU slips to 9-6-1, 3-3-1 C-USA. It also affords UTEP some momentum for its upcoming final homestand of the 2013 season, with match-ups against UTSA (7 p.m. MT Friday) and league leader Colorado College (12 p.m. MT Oct. 27).
“I am so proud of the girls today,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “I told them before the game that this game would show their character, and they showed it today. They had to work very hard to be an outstanding Tulsa team. We need El Paso to come out and support us for our final two home games of the season. Our UTEP fans are the best!”
Tulsa was extremely aggressive in the opening minutes of the match, with a shot by Lindsay Kirch being saved on the line by the Miners’ defense at 1:48. Kirch then rifled a chance that deflected off the post at 2:26.
UTEP, having withstood the initial onslaught, started to assert itself. It earned a pair of corner kicks while generating three shots over the next 12 minutes. Mackenzie German was a key cog in the sequence, forcing TU netminder Hayler Harryman to make saves at 13:34 and 19:21.
Dilling then did well to deny Roman Edwards at 21:41. She played a good outlet to Babcock, who raced up the pitch but fired a shot high 30 seconds later.
Marking improved for both sides as the half wore on, with the Miners’ Taylor Kidd accounting for the remaining shot on goal in the period. Her try, though, was turned away by Harryman at 39:25.
That style of play continued into the second half, with neither side seemingly able to put it all together. The fortunes of the match changed for good, though, thanks to the determination of Babcock and Nicholson.
Babcock won a ball up the wing and played a cross into the box to a streaking Nicholson. The run was timed perfectly, and she leapt above the pack to hammer it home on a header past a helpless Harryman at 63:09 for her ninth goal of the year.
UTEP did a great job of seemingly shortening the final 27 minutes of the game through substitutions and smart possession. TU did generate two shots on goal in the sequence, but Allen was well positioned on each chance to preserve the lead. She stoned Claire Nicholson at 73:24 while gobbling up Edwards’ try a minute later.
The Orange and Blue will now return to El Paso and prepare for the match-ups against UTSA and Colorado College.