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Jennifer Martin (78:39) scored with a little less than 12 minutes remaining in regulation, and #16 UCF escaped El Paso with a 1-0 win against UTEP at University Field Sunday afternoon.
The Miners (10-7-0, 3-5-0) posted four shots on goals but couldn’t finish in being dealt a hard-fought loss at the hands of the Knights (11-4-0, 5-3-0). Sarah Dilling registered five saves for UTEP, which had been perfect at home on the year.
“UCF came out strong and we give them credit from that,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “As the game went on, I felt that we were in it and had a chance to win it. But UCF is the 16th-ranked team in country for a reason, and we credit them for getting the result.”
The visitors applied good pressure in the opening stages of the game, with five shots and five corners over the first 11 minutes. UTEP’s stop troops did their job by letting only one try get on target, which Dilling pushed wide with a diving stop.
The Miners settled down after that initial flurry, and stayed stride for stride with the Knights for most of the way out.
Physical play also picked up, and neither chance generated an offensive chance for the next 20 minutes. Dilling was called upon in the 36th minute, turning away a shot by Ashley Nicol.
UTEP then got its offense in gear, with Kenah Linger blasting a shot from about 40 yards out off a set piece. The Knights’ GK Lianne Maldonado elevated and was able to corral the chance. UCF had a couple more opportunities in the waning minutes of the stanza but Dilling stoned Kristina Trujic and the defense cleared away a couple of services off corner kicks.
The Knights had the better go of it early on in the second period but UTEP’s defense rose to the occasion to win forays in the box from corners. The home side then went on the attack, with some good ball movement leading to some space to work with for Brittany Kindzierski. The senior laced a shot which whistled wide at 51:08.
Eight minutes later it was junior Jade Babcock who was in the mix. Her shot rocketed toward the upper part of the frame but Maldonado managed to snatch it out of the air. She was knocking on the door six minutes later, but once again Maldonado had the answer.
Dilling was well positioned to deny Nicolette Radovic in the 70th minute, and then an offside right past midfield on UCF gave UTEP a set piece. Tayler O’Hayre sent a booming shot that sailed in on target. It took a big hop, and almost snuck past Maldonado.
The keeper was able to tip it just high over the net, setting up a corner kick for the home side. Tess Hall served it into the box, but it couldn’t be put onto goal.
UTEP had another corner at 78’, with the Knights winning the ball. On the counter attack the Miners were forced to foul, setting up UCF in prime position from the right wing on a free kick.
Ashley Nicol sent it to the far wing where it skipped through a bevy of players. It found the foot of Martin, who snuck the shot past Dilling. To its credit UTEP battled hard the rest of the way, but it was unable to find the equalizer.
The Miners will be back in action on the road this coming weekend. UTEP will play at first-place Rice at 6 p.m. MT Friday before challenging Houston at 12 p.m. MT Oct. 21.
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