The Miners (11-6-2, 4-3-2 Conference USA) scored twice in the first half while adding a third tally after the break for good measure, with the Lady Monarchs (7-10, 5-3 Conference USA) never able to sustain play to get back into the match.
Alyssa Palacios was credited with seven saves in the contest, none more important than her athletic stop on a penalty kick by ODU’s Kathryn Hill with 43 seconds to play in the opening frame. That stop allowed the Orange and Blue to head into halftime armed with a commanding 2-0 lead.
Smart positioning and hustle by the defense, which included Nicole Lindsay clearing the ball off the line for an official team save at 57:34 buoyed the play of Palacios. UTEP controlled tempo in the game, with advantages in both shots (25-19) and corner kicks (10-4). Each squad recorded eight shots on goal.
The high-intensity contest featured 19 fouls (13 on UTEP and six on ODU) and five cards. With the win the Miners keep themselves in the hunt for one of the eight coveted spots for the C-USA Championships (Nov. 4-8).
“We’ve been waiting all season long for a game like this when we put it all together,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “The key to success was playing a full 90 minutes.”
UTEP was all business from the onset of the match. At 3:27 of the opening period, junior Bri Barreiro laced a shot that sailed over the outstretched arms of ODU GK Erin Kinz. It clanked off the crossbar and bounced into the area, where Thomas was there to hammer home the loose change. It was Thomas’s fourth goal of the year while Barreiro was awarded an assist on the play.
The Miners continued to pressure following the early goal, securing a corner kick just five minutes later. The service by Carleigh Simmons was sent perfectly into the box, and a mad scramble ensued. Junior Aleah Davis laced a point-blank shot that was blocked. The ball bounced to Cutaia, who drilled the shot that was blocked over the line to set up another Miner corner kick. Simmons played another brilliant ball into the area, but a foul on the Orange and Blue wiped out the chance.
A foul on UTEP from just outside the box afforded the Lady Monarchs a golden opportunity to pull even in the 20th minute. Palacios had other ideas, though, denying the try by ODU’s Grace Haverly. UTEP countered immediately, using some long passes to set up shop deep in Lady Monarch territory. The visitors tried to clear the ball away but instead ended up dragging down Cutaia in the box, to set up a Miner penalty kick. The senior calmly stood over the ball and blasted home the shot past Kinz.
The Miners continued to control possession as the half wore on, but a foul in the box with just 43 seconds left in the half gave ODU a penalty kick. Hill struck the ball toward the lower left corner of the frame but Palacios reacted with cat-like reflexes to rob her.
ODU had another outstanding chance 12 minutes into the second half, but the team defense by the Miners proved to be too much. Madison Hogan’s shot looked like it was going to best Palacios, but Linsday’s outstanding positioning allowed her to clear the ball off the line.
UTEP put the game away for good thanks to Cutaia. Off a free kick, she skillfully curved the ball over the wall. Kinz dove but she had no chance as it deflected off her hand and ended up in the back of the net.
The Miners will wrap up the regular season when they play host to Middle Tennessee on “Senior Night” at 7 p.m. MT Friday. As a sign of appreciation to the support all year by the Orange and Blue faithful, there will be free admission to the match.
Author: UTEP Athletics