Trailing 2-1 early in the second half the UTEP soccer team dug deep to rally past UTSA for a crucial 3-2 win in front of 502 fans at University Field Friday evening.
Bri Barreiro (60’) and Bri Thomas (73’) each scored in an impressive 13-minute span to fuel the comeback for the Miners (10-4-2, 3-3-0 Conference USA). Kennadie Chaudhary (5’) also found the back of the net in the game to help knock off the Roadrunners (6-9-0, 2-4-0 Conference USA), who had entered the match with confidence flying high after knocking off preseason league favorite North Texas last time out.
UTSA didn’t make it easy, though, riding goals from Marianne Hernandez (36’) Katieann Lochte (49’) to snag the aforementioned 2-1 lead. The Miners regrouped and rallied back for the important victory.
Aleah Davis made her presence felt with a pair of assists, in addition to helping UTEP control tempo. Thomas, Jeanna Mullen and Nicole Lindsay were also credited with helpers. Sophomore Alyssa Palacios made five saves, including a couple of highlight-reel stops, to pick up the win in net for the Orange and Blue.
“That was a huge win and character win,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “The team showed what they were made of tonight. I challenged the team and they stepped up big. Usually if you practice well, you’re going to play well.”
UTEP came out with plenty of intensity, pouncing on the visitors just five minutes into the match. Mullen threaded the needle with a pass to Chaudhary, who had timed the run perfectly to streak in alone on net. She took a dribble to compose herself before finishing in style to put UTEP up 1-0.
The Miners looked to make it 2-0 after a free kick gave them a good look but the blast (11’) by Davis was high.
Palacios made what was perhaps her best save (23’) of the season, diving to her left and extending every inch of her body to rob Alexis Alaniz. UTEP then took care of business and defended the ensuing corner kick.
The Roadrunners managed to find the equalizer late in the frame, taking advantage of an unlucky hand ball call to set up a free kick right at the top of the 18-yard box. Hernandez had an excellent shot to lift the ball over the wall and sneak it under the crossbar.
Five minutes later stalwart defender Payton Ross was knocked to the ground on a 50/50 ball but the call went against her (received yellow) and UTSA had a free kick from the almost identical position. This time Palacios managed to make the save to keep the match tied (1-1) heading into halftime.
UTEP started the second half with a blur, winning a corner kick just 30 seconds in. The Miners got the ball into the box on a good ball by Carleigh Simmons. Davis settled it and rifled a shot (49’) only to have UTSA clear it off the line.
The close call stung a bit more when just four minutes later Lochte made a run through the Orange and Blue defense and used a brilliant blast to best Palacios. The goal energized the Roadrunners, but UTEP also elevated its effort.
Davis made a run to the left portion of the pitch, won the ball from a UTSA player and sent it up to Thomas on the left wing. Thomas then crossed it Barreiro, who had jumped into the play to provide the equalizer.
UTEP pulled ahead 13 minutes later, this time off a corner. Lindsay put the ball on Davis’s head from about two yards out. UTSA managed to block the shot but Thomas pounced on the rebound and buried it for her team-leading sixth goal of the year.
The Miners played with incredible composure down the stretch, controlling possession and wisely sending the ball to the corners to eat up valuable time. UTSA was held to one shot after falling behind, which was high.
UTEP will have a quick turnaround, playing at Middle Tennessee at 1 p.m. MDT Sunday.