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El Paso, TX — Lauren Katada (36:19) & Angela Cutaia (63:02) each scored to help UTEP halt Conference USA league leader College College’s (27th in polls) 11-match unbeaten streak with a 2-1 victory in front of 606 fans at University Field Sunday afternoon.
The win clinches wraps not only a bid but also a first-round bye for UTEP at the 2013 C-USA Women’s Soccer Championships (Nov. 4-10-hosted by Rice). The Miners (12-4-3, 5-2-2 C-USA), who have already secured a first-round bye and will not play until the quarterfinals on Nov. 6, can wrap up second place in the vaunted West Division with a win or tie at North Texas at 12 p.m. MT Thursday.
It was not easy, though, with the Tigers (12-4-1, 7-1-1 C-USA), who boasted an RPI of 23, striking first with a penalty kick goal by Kaeli Vandersluis (17:49). The Miners were unfazed, though, and went back to work. Katada pulled the home side even with a penalty kick goal off her own late in the first half.
Katada was in the role of playmaker in the second half, setting up Cutaia’s match winner on a set piece. She served a beautiful ball from the right wing, and Cutaia hammered home the header past a diving Kate Scheele with 27 minutes to play in regulation.
Redshirt-freshman Keighton Allen, who made her second save of the match with a leaping grab in the 88th minute, and the defense made the lead stand up.
The Miners outshot the Tigers, 12-7, while also enjoying an advantage in corner kicks (6-3). It was a fast and physical contest featuring 31 fouls, 19 of which went against the visitors.
“I am so proud of UTEP Soccer,” head coach Kevin Cross said. “They showed their character today. It took a whole team effort to beat one of the top teams in the country. We knew if we stayed focused and played our best soccer that we had a chance today, and it paid off for us.
“UTEP Soccer is very thankful for our fans and all the teams that came out to support us this season. We have the best fans in the country. We also appreciate all the support staff that work tirelessly to make UTEP Soccer a success. Our team did a great job sending our seniors out in style this weekend with two huge home wins. We need to continue this play against a strong North Texas in Denton.
There was a quick whistle on Colorado College, giving the Miners a free kick from just past the center line 40 seconds in. Tayler O’Hayre laced a serve that carried all the way to Scheele, who tracked it throughout and corralled it.
UTEP then came up with a loose ball and used a precise pass to set up Jade Babcock on the left wing at 1:27. She was able to make the turn and maintain possession but was forced to take a tough angle on net. Scheele flew off the line without hesitation to reduce the angle even more, and then delivered a brilliant diving stop. The rebound bounced out loose but no Miner was in the area and Colorado College cleared it from harm’s way.
Play became a bit more physical over the next several minutes, preventing any true opportunity for either squad.
UTEP then went back on the attack, earning a corner kick at 15:45. Mackenzie German sent it to Kenah Linger, who had a shot but it was wide.
The Tigers then slowly but surely worked the ball up the pitch, ultimately resulting in a penalty kick for the visitors after a hand-ball call against Hannah Asuchak at 17:49. Vandersluis converted the try, but the Tigers would muster only two shots on goal the rest of the way out.
UTEP found the equalizer with Katada’s penalty kick, which also gave it new life heading into half tied at one.
In the 53rd minute there was a quality lob from Babcock to a cutting Azia Nicholson. She one-timed the chance, but the CC defense was able to block it over the end line. The Miners played a short corner to German, who tried to cross it into the area only to have it be blocked and deflect off her for a Tiger goal kick.
The visitors quickly pushed the ball up the pitch, threading the needle to send Jaclyn Sisby on a partial breakaway. Alexa Bain closed the gap, forcing her to rush the shot and it trickled wide at 55:18.
UTEP, having survived the close call, made sure to take advantage. A foul on the right wing of the pitch deep in Tiger territory presented the Miners with a golden opportunity, and they did not waste it.
Katada’s service was perfect, and Cutaia elevated above the pack to send the ball home with a strong flick of the head.
UTEP closed the game in style, using the combination of staggered subs and smart possession to seemingly shorten the contests. The Tigers only generated one corner and a pair of shots in the timeframe, with both shots coming in the final four minutes.
A chance by Katie Uyensishi was off the mark at 86:47 while Sarah Haizlip’s high-arching shot was snatched out of the air by Allen at 88:14.
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