ABILENE, Texas – Sophomore goalkeeper Alyssa Palacios made nine stops (one shy of career high) while the Miner defense stepped up to deliver two team saves as UTEP battled to a scoreless draw at Abilene Christian Sunday afternoon.
The Miners move to 1-0-1 on the year, and have yet to yield a goal. It’s the fifth time in program history (’14, ’11, ’08 and ’97) that UTEP has opened the campaign with consecutive shutouts. The homestanding Wildcats (0-1-1) did everything they could to spoil that feat but Palacios and company stood tall.
UTEP enjoyed some quality offensive moments as well, but ACU GK Sydney Newton recorded three saves while her defense blocked several other chances.
For eight of the 19 Miners to appear in the game, including four starters, it marked the first career road tilt.
“Abilene Christian has always played us very tough,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “They are one of the best teams in their conference. We will learn from this game. Our back line and keeper played well. We worked hard but did not get the goal we needed even though we came very close.”
ACU threatened almost immediately, with Leslie Snider getting some space to work with at 2:22. Palacios was well positioned to make the save. UTEP then countered but Aleah Davis’ try was blocked away. The Miners regained possession but the threat was wiped away after a thru ball resulted in an offside call.
In the 16th minute Palacios was called upon again, and she delivered a big-time stop. She turned away Snider’s rocket and the Orange and Blue defense took care of the rest on the ensuing corner kick.
UTEP began to possess a bit better as the half wore on, keeping the Wildcats to without a shot over the final 22 minutes of the frame.
Offensively the Orange and Blue had some good looks but couldn’t get on the board before halftime. Yesenia Contreras whistled a shot just wide in the 19th minute before sending one high six minutes later. Jodie Enokson’s header in the 30th minute was also wide. A shot from Alexa Bain, off a nice corner kick service by Kobi McNutt, was blocked away by the ACU defense.
UTEP did good work to earn its second corner of the contest just two minutes into the second half. Snider was back at it for ACU in the 53rd minute, with her third shot on goal of the game, but once again Palacios was ready. UTEP bolted up the pitch to set up Davis, but her try was wide.
The Miners generated some sustained pressure midway through the second half, recording two shots on goal in a four-minute span. Davis was turned away at 63:42 while a shot by Nicole Lindsay at 66:59 was gobbled up by Newton.
UTEP’s defense gave Palacios a huge boost in the 68th minute by coming up with a team save on the line on the header by ACU’s Brooke Lenz. The Miners were back on the attack in the 75th minute but the shot from the speedy freshman forward Danielle Carreon was wide.
ACU really amped up its offensive intensity in the waning minutes of the half, but UTEP fought it all off. The Miner defense blocked a shot by Samantha Vestal while Palacios fought off the try by Brooke Lenz. The final two shots of the frame didn’t get on goal, with one clanking off the post and another going wide.
Palacios delivered three of her saves in overtime while the Miner defense cleared Dylan Owens’ shot off the line at 103:20. UTEP also had some opportunities, with Kennadie Chaudhary providing the spark. The junior blasted a shot wide at 108:41 while forcing Newton into a difficult save with just two seconds remaining in the contest.
UTEP will continue its three-game roadswing by playing at CSU Bakersfield at 6 p.m. MT Friday.