Photo by Ruben R. Ramirez | El Paso Herald Post

UTEP blanks UTSA 1-0

UTEP’s Jojo Ngongo buried a penalty kick in the 12th minute and Luisa Palmen delivered a career-high 10 saves (eight in second half) to help the Miners (3-7, 1-2 C-USA) topple UTSA (5-4-1, 0-2 C-USA) at University Field Friday evening.

It is the first conference win of the league slate for the Miners, who now find themselves tied for fourth in the C-USA West Division with five C-USA contests remaining. A top-five finish will propel them to the league tournament.

“The team did a really good job,” UTEP head coach Kathryn Balogun said. “Not only were we able to go up with the PK, but were able to hold the lead the entire time. Luisa (Palmen) had some really good saves, we swept one off the goal line. It was a total team performance. We need to continue to get better in the final third with finishing our opportunities, but overall I’m really proud of the team and the effort they put in.”

The triumph is the second via the shutout for the Miners this year, who previously blanked UIW on the road, 1-0, on Sept. 3. UTEP was credited with nine shots in the contest, including three on goal. The Orange and Blue also earned four corner kicks.

UTEP raced up the pitch early in the contest, earning a corner kick in the second minute. The Miners sent the ball into the mixer, but UTSA was able to clear it away.

In the 12th minute the visitors had a good opportunity, but the Orange and Blue defense were up to the task. Ellis Patterson had her shot blocked away by the defense. It came right to Abby Kamal, who fired it low on the middle of the frame where Palmen gobbled it up.

The Miners then flew up the pitch, catching the Roadrunners off guard. A thru ball sent Vic Bohdan in alone. She was dragged down from behind in the box. The official whistled the play dead, rewarding the Miners a penalty kick.

Ngongo calmly stood over the ball and blasted it into the lower, left corner to afford UTEP the 1-0 lead in the match.

It proved to be the lone shot on goal in the half for the Orange and Blue, but that was a moot point. Palmen saved a shot from Patterson less than two minutes after the tally, and the defense did the rest. UTSA never got any of the ensuing shots on target over the rest of the frame, allowing UTEP to carry the one-goal advantage into halftime.

UTEP did a good job of possessing in the second half and attacking when opportunities arose, doing enough to keep the Roadrunners honest.

The best change for the Roadrunners came within the first three minutes of the second half. Patterson was robbed by Palmen with a diving stop, but she couldn’t corral the rebound. UTSA’s Abby Kassal looked poised to bury the loose change, but defender Vanessa Cabello cleared the shot off the line for the team save.

Palmen went on to record seven more saves in the stanza, including a couple of diving stops, while also turning away some chances on routine opportunities to lock up the clean sheet. UTEP had a golden chance to extend its advantage to 2-0 in the 70th minute, but Kristen Prevosto whistled a penalty kick attempt over the bar. It ultimately didn’t matter, with the Orange and Blue closing out the visitors in style.

“It was a hard week of competition,” Balogun said. “It just turns around with another tough one at LA Tech next week.

The Miners will vie for their second straight victory when they play at LA Tech at 6 p.m. MT on Oct. 1. The match will be streamed on C-USA TV.

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