The UTEP soccer team (2-6, 0-1 C-USA) scored first, outshot (10-9) and out possessed (54-46) No. 20 Rice (7-1-1, 1-0 C-USA), only to fall, 2-1, in the Conference USA opener for both squads at University Field Thursday evening.
The Miners jumped ahead on freshman Molly Sutherland’s first collegiate goal (11’), with assists by Cayman Tamez and Emerson Kidd. Rice regrouped to scored twice in a 14-minute span with tallies from Caleigh Boeckx (14’) and Ziyana Samanani (27’) to pull ahead.
Both defenses then locked down, with only two combined shots on goal in the second half as the nationally-ranked Owls escaped with the victory.
Luisa Palmen was credited with two saves. Rice’s Bella Kilgore had one stop, with the Owls also posting a team save.
“It was a tough way to start conference, but we are resilient,” UTEP head coach Kathryn Balogun said. “Rice is a quality team which plays its style of soccer well. But the weekend is not over, and we have an opportunity to earn three points on the road Sunday at North Texas.”
Rice pressured early off a free kick, with GK Killgore testing Palmen from the right wing. The Germany native tracked the shot and made the clean save. UTEP went on the offensive in the 11th minute, earning its first corner kick of the contest.
The Miners played the ball into the area, where a shot by Tamez was saved on the line by a defender. Kidd touched the loose change to Sutherland, who buried it home to vault UEP out to a 1-0 lead.
The Owls would respond, tallying twice in a 14-minute spin to grab the 2-1 advantage. Boeckx got things going by besting a diving Palmen with a shot from the center of the box. Rice then pulled after Samanani snuck the shot past Palmen in the 27th minute.
Vic Bohdan streaked up with the right wing in the 32nd minute, but her cracker of a shot lasered past the frame. Two minutes later she found space at the top of the box, but it was blocked. Jojo Ngongo followed up, but it went high over the goal.
Jackie Soto, who scored both goals in the 2-1 win over I-10 rival NM State on Sept. 9, looked for her team-leading fourth strike of the season in the 53rd minute. This time, though, Killgore handled things.
UTEP’s defense did its job the rest of the way, keeping Rice to just one shot on target over the final 45 minutes. The Miners continued to battle, but the equalizer wasn’t in the cards.
The Miners will wrap up the opening week of league action at (RV) North Texas at 12 p.m. MT Sunday (Sept. 19). The contest against the Mean Green will be streamed.