UTEP Soars Past Air Force, 3-1
Sept. 19, 2008
Melissa Desilets, Brittany Vacca and Chelsea Winbush each scored their first goals in 2008 to lead the UTEP soccer team to a decisive 3-1 victory against Air Force on the opening night of the ninth-annual Border Shootout at University Field Friday evening.
Inspired by a rocking crowd of 951- the sixth largest in the 12-year history of the program- the Miners played stellar soccer from the opening whistle.
UTEP (6-2) peppered Air Force (2-6) with 15 shots and earned six corner kicks in displaying a potent offensive attack. The Miners' defense continued its stellar play on the year, as it held the Falcons to seven shots and the lone tally.
By virtue of the triumph, the Miners are now a mind-boggling 56-6-1 at home since 2002. Moreover, UTEP remains unbeaten (11-0) during the Kevin Cross era when playing in front of more than 900 fans.
"We are very thankful to have this type of support from everybody in El Paso," Cross said. "All of the high schools, Fort Bliss, the German Air Force, the community, UTEP's cheerleaders and football team and the student body really energized us.
"I'm very proud of the ladies for the way they responded to the challenges we gave them this week in practice," Cross said. "We brought a much higher intensity level and want to continue playing this type of soccer."
The Miners came out energized at the onset of the match, controlling play while forcing action deep into the Falcons' portion of the pitch. The result was a good chance for Desilets only three minutes into the tilt. Although her blast sailed wide, the message was delivered that this evening the Miners meant business.
The next several minutes the Orange and Blue methodically probed the stingy Air Force defense in an effort to decipher it. The patient approach would pay dividends at the 11-minute mark.
Tameka Sumter won a 50/50 ball and streaked down the right wing, sucking in the Falcons' defenders in the process. At the last possible second, she deftly touched it to Winbush. The junior took a couple of dribbles to compose herself before rifling a left-footed shot that blistered past a helpless Falcons' GK Ashlee Curtis to afford UTEP a 1-0 lead.
The tally was the second of Winbush's career, with her only other goal coming during her freshman season in an 11-0 rout of Grambling State on Aug. 31, 2006.
The Orange and Blue kept the pressure on following the strike. Sumter appeared to make it a 2-0 contest after burying a shot into the low, right corner but the play was erased by an offside violation. Undeterred, the Miners would keep playing deep in Air Force territory.
The continued ball-possession simply put too much strain on the Falcons, with the Miners scoring for the second time of the tilt at the 23-minute mark. The sequence started innocently enough, as a Falcons' clearing attempt carried past midfield.
Vacca corralled it and then raced up the pitch. With no defenders closing in on her, the freshman laced a low, hard shot that rolled in on net with deceptive velocity. Curtis, caught off guard by the try, never responded and watched in disbelief as it twingled the twine for Vacca's first career goal.
Air Force mounted its initial threat of the game less than two minutes after Vacca's strike by lobbing a ball into the box. Morden alertly came off the line to snatch the ball out of the air amidst Falcon forwards driving in on her.
Morden was called upon again with at the 37-minute mark, deflecting a cross with a diving exertion. Although the Falcons earned a corner kick as result, the Winnipeg, Canada, native's effort prevented what could have been a point-blank header try for the Falcons. The Miners' stop troops rewarded their keeper's strong showing by easily clearing the corner.
The Falcons generated the initial scoring threat of the second half, garnering three corner kicks within the first three minutes. UTEP successfully defended the first two tries by winning balls in the air. The Miners were unable to clear the third service away, though, as it was half-volleyed into the back of the net by Bridgett Murphy to slice the Orange and Blue's lead in half.
The Miners responded to the Falcons' goal like champions, turning up the heat in an effort to regain their two-margin advantage. UTEP displayed plenty of poise in patiently pushing the ball up the pitch. While shots by Sumter and Casey were off target, they did at least send the pendulum of momentum back in favor of UTEP.
The near misses also derailed Air Force's confidence, as the Falcons were suddenly on their heels. Sensing the time to capitalize was now, the Miners strung together a couple of passes to set up shop deep in Air Force territory.
A promising cross was knocked away momentarily by the Falcons' defense, but Cara Nordin pounced on the loose ball. She then laced a cross to a wide-open Desilets, who one-timed it past a helpless Curtis to put the Miners up 3-1 with 36 minutes left in the match.
Desilets' second-career goal seemed to demoralize the Falcons, who struggled to even cross midfield the several minutes.
The Miners had no such issues, with their advantage remaining at 3-1 during the sequence only thanks to brilliant play by Curtis. The Falcons' netminder came up with three point-blank stops (two on laser beams by Aston and another from Casey).
With the stanza moving into its latter stages, the Miners' remained focused and in control. UTEP earned a pair of corner kicks around the 72nd minute, but was not able to convert on either try.
Air Force then mounted an offensive opportunity of its own, but Morden was there to deny the Brittany Szewc blast with 14 minutes remaining.
That chance would be the final good one of the match for the Falcons, with UTEP closing out the game in style.
The Miners will take on Northern Colorado in the championship match of the Border Shootout at 2 p.m. on Sunday.