UTEP Tops Tulsa, 2-1, In C-USA Opener
The UTEP soccer team vaulted out to a 2-0 lead at the half on goals by Tameka Sumter (27:18) and Chelsea Winbush (39:50) and never looked back on the way to downing Tulsa, 2-1, in the Conference USA opener for both squads in front of 525 fans at University Field Friday evening. The Miners' fourth straight victory moves them to 7-2-0 on the year, while the Golden Hurricane drop to 3-4-2.
In a game which featured contrasting styles, it was UTEP's up-tempo mindset which won out. The Miners overwhelmed the Golden Hurricane from the opening whistle, en route to outshooting them 28-7 (12-3 in shots on goal). The Orange and Blue generated eight corners to the four by TU, and dictated pace of play for the majority of the match.
Tulsa hung around though thanks largely to the play of GK Katie Bykowski, who finished with 10 saves-including seven in the first half. Her efforts and a goal from Jennier Kacergis (57:09) added some drama to the game, but the Miners were poised down the stretch in closing the contest out in style.
"Any conference win is a big win, so we are obviously excited," UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. "We played a very good first half. We dropped off a bit in the second half, but we still did enough to get the win."
The Miners possessed off the opening kick-off, and immediately established a quick pace of play. With Tulsa content to pack it in, UTEP methodically probed the defense. Patient play led to a pair of good scoring chances early on.
Winbush was denied by Bykowski on a sliding effort at the four-minute mark, while a Skye Schultz one-timer whistled just wide two minutes later.
The Golden Hurricane's initial offensive foray was sandwiched between the Orange and Blue tries, with Shannon Locke lobbing a shot which was well errant of the net.
UTEP earned the first corner kick of the tilt at the 11-minute mark. Tess Hall lifted the ball into the box, where Bykowski punched it away. The loose change came to Melissa Desilets, whose shot attempt was off the mark.
The Miners continued to pressure, with a header by Hall creeping just over the crossbar in the 16th minute. Two minutes later it was nifty dribbling from Neresa Taylor which afforded Schultz room to operate from just outside the box. She laced a shot which was gobbled up by Bykowski.
Brittany Vacca vied to break the stalemate by blasting a shot toward upper 90's country only to have Bykowski tip it just high in the 26th minute.
The relentless pressure paid off just one minute later, with Schultz slicing a pass into the box for a streaking Sumter. The senior had timed her run perfectly, and rocketed a one-time shot to twickle the twine.
UTEP kept the pedal to the metal following the tally, and it would find the second goal of the match courtesy of Winbush. The ball was stolen away from a TU player, and the senior drilled a shot which blistered past Bykowski.
Tulsa finally mustered some offense in the waning minute of the period by garnering a corner kick, but the Miner stop troops were up to the task in clearing the service.
Facing the 2-0 deficit at the break, it was no surprise to see Tulsa emerge with more energy at the start of the second half. The Miners were prepared, however, and matched TU's intensity with tight marking. The Golden Hurricane were able to generate a corner kick in the 51st minute, but UTEP GK Chandra Morden leapt and punched it away.
Tulsa kept play deep in UTEP territory, and found a way to get on the board thanks to Kacergis. Kayla Chambers tapped a pass to Kacergis, whose low-arching shot snuck past Morden to cut the Miners' advantage in half.
UTEP regrouped nicely following the strike, peppering TU with six shots over the next nine minutes. Bykowski was up to task on blasts by Anoop Josan, Schultz and Brittany Thornton while the other attempts were off the mark.
Tulsa then went on the offensive, but the Miners would maintain their lead on the strength two solid defensive plays. The first was courtesy of Brittany Gonzalez, who cleared a ball off the line after a shot by Chambers caught Morden off guard.
Morden fared much better on the next sequence, however, using good form on a sneaky low line drive shot from Chambers in the 70th minute.
Tulsa was unable to create any other chances in the final 20 minutes, with UTEP smothering any semblance of a threat before it materialized.
The Miners will welcome rival SMU to El Paso for a 1 p.m. game on Sunday.