Senior Bri Thomas (56’) and freshman Aylin Villalobos (86’) scored second-half goals and the defense did the rest in UTEP’s 2-0 win at Incarnate Word Friday evening. With the effort the Miners (5-0-2) have secured the program’s third-longest undefeated streak to start a season, trailing only the respective efforts by the 2005 (15 games; 14-0-1) and 2002 (12 games; 12-0-0) squads.
The Cardinals (0-4-1) put up a good fight but failed to crack UTEP’s defense. Reigning C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week Alyssa Palacios was called on to make only one save, thanks to the efforts of C-USA Defensive Player of the Week Lauren Crenshaw and the rest of the Miners’ stop troops. Overall the Orange and Blue have now recorded shutouts in six of the seven games in 2016.
Furthermore, the Miners improve to 18-7-5 on the road since 2013, including a mark of 2-0-2 thus far this year. UTEP enjoyed significant advantages in shots (17-8) and shots on goal (8-1) but UIW hung around due to its grit and six saves from Sydney Huntsinger.
“We played a good second half,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “Bri Thomas had a great goal on her first shot of the game, and Aylin Villalobos gave us the cushion we needed on her first collegiate goal. I was really proud of both of them. Aleah Davis and Payton Ross also made a great defensive play to stop Incarnate Word’s best scoring opportunity. We will have to play a full 90 minutes on Sunday versus Stephen F. Austin.”
The Miners asserted themselves early on, with Nicole Lindsay (1’) blasting a shot high over the frame. There was a tremendous ball played by Carleigh Simmons on a corner kick, setting up Jeanna Mullen (5’) but Huntsinger was up to the task.
The best run of play for the home side came over the next several minutes, when it generated three corners and a pair of shots but nothing got on frame to pester Palacios.
Midway through the stanza the Miners began to dictate tempo and pace. Natalie Valentine (26’) laced a shot that forced Huntsinger to make a save that led to a corner kick. UTEP couldn’t convert on the set piece. Freshman Danielle Carreon (32’) got free but her shot was errant. Two minutes later she put it on goal only to have Huntsinger come up with a stop.
UTEP applied good pressure late in the half, with Bri Barreiro (38’) finding space for a shot that Huntsinger tracked well and gobbled up.
The Miners’ persistence carried over to the second half, with a Barreiro shot (50’) and a rush that resulted in an offside call (52’) putting the home side in a precarious position. Two more Miner shots followed-both high-before Thomas broke the deadlock. She regained possession of a lost ball from about 11 yards out before blasting it past a helpless Huntsinger.
To its credit, UIW recovered after the tally to try to pull even. The Cardinals earned a corner kick and got a good look for Karey Tylman (68’) but the try hit the post. Brooke Hanson (72’) did her best effort four minutes later with the only shot on goal of the game for UIW but Palacios made the stop.
Rather than sit back and try to milk the clock, the Miners decided the best way to protect their lead was through picking up their offensive intensity.
Consecutive corner kicks by Carreon (77’) got things going before a header from Hunley (81’) almost made it 2-0. Huntsinger was up to the task, though, making the point-blank save. Huntsinger delivered yet another stop on Thomas (85’) but one minute later the Miners got that highly-sought after insurance tally.
Davis and Mullen strung together some passes to set up Villalobos, who nailed the shot in from 10 yards out for her first collegiate tally.
UTEP will wrap up the road portion of its non-conference slate by playing at Stephen F. Austin at 12 p.m. MDT Sunday. The contest will be broadcast live on ESPN3.com.