Soccer secures a spot in C-USA tournament

"These were my last two games on this field and it’s always good to go out with a win, with a good crowd like we had today." - Kenah Linger, senior defender

%236+With+a+goal+from+Angela+Cutaia%2C+UTEP+upsets+Colorado+College+2-1+on+Oct.+27

Aaron Montes / The Prospector

#6 With a goal from Angela Cutaia, UTEP upsets Colorado College 2-1 on Oct. 27

Edwin Delgado, Sports Editor

The UTEP soccer team ended their home schedule with style and earned a spot in the Conference USA Tournament by defeating the Texas San Antonio Roadrunners on Oct. 25 and the Colorado College Tigers (ranked 27th in the polls) on Oct. 27 respectively.

“These final two games meant a lot to me. I got a little sentimental before the games,” said senior defender Kenah Linger. “These were my last two games on this field, and it’s always good to go out with a win, with a good crowd like we had today.”

The Miners and the Roadrunners came into the game with the same record, sitting in fourth place in the West Division.

UTSA focused on conserving the tie for as long as possible, making it difficult for any team to create chances. However, in the 22nd minute, junior midfielder Mackenzie German’s cross found senior midfielder Gina Soto, whose shot was blocked and the ball was cleared poorly by the defense. The ball fell in the path of senior defender Tori Martyn. She took a shot from 30 yards out and it went right into the bottom corner to give UTEP the lead.

“I knew as soon as I got the ball that I needed to take the shot,” Martyn said. “It was better than what I expected and I was a bit shocked and very excited that it happened on our Senior Night.”

In the 31st minute, sophomore midfielder Lauren Katada took on two defenders at the edge of the box and managed to beat the first one. While she attempted to find space to take a shot, she was brought down by the second defender and the Miners were awarded a penalty kick. Katada took the shot to the left of the keeper to extend the lead to 2-0.

“I got a great pass and I was just trying to get open for a shot,” Katada said. “We rarely get those calls, but it was good that we got it and I’ve been practicing the penalty kicks a lot.”

The Roadrunners didn’t have an answer in the second half as UTEP kept dominating.

In the 61st minute, senior forward Azia Nicholson was on the counter attack and missed a chance to make it 3-0 as her shot went just wide of the post.

UTSA’s lone scoring opportunity came in the 70th minute when junior midfielder Kaytee O’Brien’s header hit the crossbar.

In the 79th minute, sophomore forward Angela Cutaia eluded the goalie and took a shot that hit the post and rolled along the goal-line before it was cleared. UTEP managed to hold onto a 2-0 win on Senior Night, which was an emotional win for the Miners.

“We are ecstatic about our win, it was great for us to play in front of this crowd, play for El Paso, to put us on a good position,” Martyn said. “All of us are so thankful for what El Paso has offered us. We need to carry the momentum and finish strong.”

On Oct. 27, UTEP hosted the best team in the conference, Colorado College, who have been undefeated in their last 11 matches.

From the start, UTEP was able to put pressure on the Tigers and just two minutes into the game, senior forward Jade Babcock had a one-on-one with Colorado College goalkeeper Kate Scheele, but her shot went right into her hands.

In the 18th minute, junior defender Hannah Asuchak was called for a handball inside the box and the Tigers converted the ensuing penalty kick through junior forward Kaeli Vandersluis to take a 1-0 lead.

“It was upsetting to go down with a bad call on the penalty, but the soccer gods were on our side and we got one of our own. We kept playing our game and  got a huge win,” said head coach Kevin Cross.

In the 37th minute, after a cross to the box, Tigers defender Kecia Morway was also called for a handball inside the box and the referee awarded the penalty for the Miners. Katada, who scored her first goal of the season on a penalty against UTSA, stepped up and scored from the spot again to tie the game shortly before the break.

In the 64th minute, the Miners were awarded a free kick on the right side of the penalty box. Katada served the ball into the heart of the box, where Cutaia with a header hammered the ball into the back of the net to give the Miners the lead at 2-1, which they hung onto for the rest of the game.

“Lauren (Katada) usually takes our crosses in set pieces, she always looks for me or (freshman midfielder) Aleah (Davis),” Cutaia said. “She served a really good ball and I just headed it.”

The referee, who made debatable penalty calls in the first half, added to the controversy when the Tigers’ senior midfielder Madison Whitehead was taken down in the box in the 76th minute of the match and decided not to call the foul, allowing the Miners to hand Colorado College its first conference loss of the season and break their streak of 11 games without a loss.

With the two wins, UTEP secures a place in the Conference USA Tournament, which is hosted by Rice (Nov. 6-10) and a first-round bye. The Miners could seal a second-place finish in the West Division in their game against North Texas on Oct. 31 with a win or tie.

“North Texas is a really good team that has a powerful attack,” Cross said. “We have to play our best and stay focused to play a good game.”

Edwin Delgado may be reached at [email protected]