Junior Kennadie Chaudhary scored with 19 seconds remaining in regulation to lift UTEP to a thrilling 4-3 win at Charlotte Friday evening.
The Miners (8-2-2, 1-1-0 Conference USA) received goals from Jeanna Mullen (6’), Aleah Davis (51’), Yesenia Contreras (68’) and Chaudhary (89’) and a season-high nine saves from Alyssa Palacios to hand the 49ers (6-5, 2-1-1 C-USA) their first home (4-1) and league loss of the year. Bri Barreiro and Lauren Crenshaw were credited with helpers for UTEP.
Charlotte’s offense was fueled by two goals from Martha Thomas (52’, 69’) and Rebecca Beatty (59’) but UTEP kept its composure to pick up a huge road victory. Shots (19-8), shots on goal (12-6) and corner kicks (7-1) favored the home side but the Orange and Blue came through in the clutch in the most crucial moments.
“What a game tonight to have seven goals and score the game winner with 19 seconds left,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “Charlotte is an excellent team with a great attack, and very well coached. We had a great team effort tonight, and stayed positive and composed all game long. The game changers made a huge difference tonight.”
The 49ers produced the first opportunity of the game but there was good pressure by the Miners’ defense that forced Truelove’s shot (3’) to be errant.
UTEP then methodically worked the ball up the pitch and into the area. Mullen won a loose ball at the six-yard line before using a slow poke to sneak the ball just inside the left post while GK Anna Shelden was still down.
Charlotte regrouped nicely and earned its first corner kick (11’) of the game. It was a sneaky try by Riley Orr whose service forced Palacios to make a save. The 49ers earned another corner kick (15’) with Orr sending the ball into the mixer. After a shot was blocked, Charlotte reset and played a cross to Megan Greene whose header (16’) was denied by Palacios.
The home side really then started to dial up its pressure but good marking by the defense and play by Palacios kept them off the board. The sophomore GK turned away Truelove (18’, 26’) twice in addition to delivering a stop against Katie Oneill (20’).
The Miners then started to possess a bit better, slowing the Charlotte pace of play in the process. They limited the 49ers to one shot over the final 19 minutes, but it was their best look of the stanza. Thomas turned on the dime at the 18-yard line and rocketed a shot (36’) that Palacios pushed high to set up a corner kick. UTEP defended the service well.
The Orange and Blue nearly padded their lead late in the half after Shelden got caught out of position. Contreras was very alert and unleashed a long range shot that had enough pace but unfortunately was off target.
Early in the second half a foul on the 49ers gave the Miners a free kick in prime position. Barreiro played a perfect ball to Davis, whose header best Shelden. The goal afforded UTEP a 2-0 lead, but the home side got its high-octane offense in gear.
Charlotte scored twice in the next eight minutes but the Miners didn’t flinch. Rather they regrouped and went back to work. Palacios did her part by making a quality save on Greene’s shot (63’).
UTEP then regained the lead with Crenshaw playing a good ball toward Contreras, who used tremendous skill to flick the ball over the keeper’s header from about 25 yards out.
Unfazed Charlotte ran a designed play off the kickoff that led to a cross and header goal for Thomas. The tally came officially 10 seconds after UTEP’s go-ahead goal.
The two sides went back-and-forth from that point on, with the match seemingly destined for overtime. Chaudhary had other intentions, though, spinning, turning and blasting home a shot from the top of the 18-yard box.
UTEP will look to make it a perfect weekend by playing at Old Dominion at 10:30 a.m. MDT Sunday.