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The Prospector

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Old Dominion last stop on Miners road to C-USA tournament

Cristina Esquivel
Sophomore midfielder Hannah Nicholson wins the ball against the Florida International defender this past Sunday.

The UTEP women’s soccer team has reached the first of its goals this season with two wins this weekend that clinched a spot in the Conference USA tournament. With wins over Florida International and Florida Atlantic, the Miners reached 19 points and assured themselves of finishing among the top eight of the 14-team conference.

“It is a great accomplishment to get the win today and it means a lot to get in the C-USA tournament,” head coach Kevin Cross said.

The Miners entered the weekend having reached double-digit wins again this season, needing just a win and tie to clinch a spot in the post season. The Miners are tied for second place with Rice, three points ahead of Middle Tennessee and trailing just behind North Texas.

The Miners improved their streak of unbeaten games to five with a win on Friday night against the visiting Florida Atlantic Owls. After a slow start on the always-emotional Senior Night, the Miners settled in, and first half goals from freshmen Kennadie Chaudhary and Margaret Hadley were enough to defeat the Owls. A final push by the visitors, that brought them within a goal of tying, was not enough to prevent UTEP from their 11th win of the season.

Senior goalkeeper Sarah Dilling kept adding to her Miner legacy, becoming the program’s all-time leader in victories with 40.

“They’re playing really hard and they’re one of the best teams I have ever been a part of,” Cross said. “I’m really proud of them, they’re doing awesome.”

UTEP followed up Friday’s win with another by the same score. Goals from junior Angela Cutaia and sophomore Aleah Davis powered the Miners to a tense and hard-fought 2-1 win over Florida International. Davis scored her fifth goal of the season to put the home team ahead on a set piece. The lead was short lived as the Panthers tied it back up just 68 seconds later. A second-half penalty put the Miners ahead and their tight disciplined defense kept them there until the final whistle.

The Miners have not only punched a ticket to Charlotte, where the conference tournament will take place, they have also secured a top-three finish in the regular season standings.

“We just want to keep building,” senior defender Hannah Asuchak said. “I think we’re still where we want to be, but we always want to keep pushing harder.”

Now the Miners turn their attention to their final game of the season on Thursday, Oct. 30, when they visit Old Dominion in Norfolk, Virginia. The Monarchs enter the game in ninth place and still with possibilities of placing in the top eight. Trailing Louisiana Tech and Charlotte by two points, Old Dominion needs a win to have any possibility of playing past the weekend, and a loss from either of the two teams ahead of them. The Monarchs have not helped their chances recently, having gone four games without a win. In their last two games, they were shutout by North Texas and Rice, who scored a combined seven goals.

“If we can get a win there and head to the conference tournament on a high that will really help our confidence,” senior defender Taylor O’Hayre said. “Based on how we did this weekend, we got two wins against two very good teams, we’re in good shape for Old Dominion.”

A win will not only help UTEP’s confidence, but also secure the second spot in the conference. If UTEP were to lose its final match against Old Dominion, the farthest they could fall would be into a third-place tie with Tennessee, and the tiebreaker favors the Miners. The regular season title is out of reach since all the Miners could do is tie the leader North Texas, who beat UTEP a couple of weeks ago.

UTEP closes out the regular season focused on the game at hand, but with the promise of bigger goals ahead.

“We’ve done well on the road this year and we’ll give it our all and see how it goes,” Cross said. “We think that we can beat anyone in conference, we got a chance for sure.”

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected].

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Old Dominion last stop on Miners road to C-USA tournament