The UTEP soccer team sent its seven seniors out in style with a 5-0 thrashing of Southern Miss on “Senior Night” at University Field Friday evening. With the victory the Miners (12-6-2, 5-5-0 Conference USA) locked up a bid to the 2016 Conference USA Championships while the Golden Eagles (8-7-2, 2-6-2) conclude their season with a setback.
Aleah Davis (24’), Carleigh Simmons (41’), Bri Thomas (54’, 67’) and Jodie Enokson (89’) all scored for the Orange and Blue. Nicole Lindsay registered a pair of assists while Bri Barreiro, Yesenia Contreras and Aylin Villalobos also were credited with helpers.
Alyssa Palacios (four saves) and Keighton Allen (three saves) teamed up to post the squad’s 10th shutout of the year, which is one shy of matching the program standard. Additionally, the 5-0 win is the biggest via shutout in a league contest since a 6-0 drubbing at Houston on Nov. 2, 2007.
“It was a beautiful night and we had so much great support with the band, cheerleaders, fans and alumni,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “The whole team battled tonight. It was incredible and there was tons of energy. It was a phenomenal game. Southern Miss is a very good team but we played our best soccer tonight.”
UTEP pressured almost immediately, with Bri Thomas forcing Southern Miss’ GK Brittany Taylor to come up with a save (‘2). The Golden Eagles then went to work but UTEP’s defense blocked away a shot (5’) from Hannah Abrams while Palacios gobbled up a shot (9’) from Breann Hedin. Palacios was called upon a few minutes later, calmly collecting the chance (14’) from Hedin again.
The Orange and Blue then got their offense in gear, earning three corner kicks over the next six minutes. Southern Miss did well to fight things off but the Miners refused to be denied. The breakthrough came in the 24th minute off a free kick. Barreiro played a ball into the box where Davis timed it perfectly to elevate and hammer home a header.
The Miners continued to pressure after getting on the board, with Nicole Lindsay nearly doubling their advantage after her header (39’) clanked off the crossbar. The close call proved to be a moot point when Contreras laced a shot (41’).
Southern Miss came out with plenty of intensity to start the second half, but UTEP was able to handle the pressure. The Miner defense forced the shot (46’) by Hanna Abrams wide before blocking away a try by Becky McMullan. McMullan stayed with it before unleashing a chance but it sailed high.
The Miners then began to control tempo and possession, and they made it a 3-0 game in the 55th minute. Off a corner kick Lindsay sent it to Thomas, who blasted home the loose change. Twelve minutes later the duo teamed up again, this time with Thomas using a header to best the Golden Eagle keeper.
Allen, who has already graduated with a 4.0 GPA in economics, came in for Palacios in the 75th minute. She thrived to go out in style by making three saves, including two brilliant stops, to help preserve the shutout.
For good measure at the other end of the pitch, Enokson one-timed home a blast in the final minute of action.
UTEP will be back in action in the quarterfinals of the 2016 C-USA Championships Wednesday.