Nov. 10, 2012
PROVO, Utah - After making history by advancing to its second-straight NCAA Tournament, the Utah State soccer team had its season come to an end against top-seed and No. 2 ranked BYU, 2-1, in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in Provo on Saturday.
Utah State ends the season with a13-3-6 record which is the fewest losses in school history. This is the first time this season that the Aggies have allowed more than one goal in a match this season. BYU improves to 19-1-1 and will host the second and third rounds of the NCAA Tournament.
"I couldn't be more proud of this team. We kept going after them and forced them to do things that they weren't comfortable doing, and that was our goal. We had our chances and were the better team at times. It is hard for the season to be over, but I am so proud. They played so incredibly well," USU head coach Heather Cairns said.
Despite the heavy snow on Friday in Provo, the field was cleared and the sun snuck out as the match started. Both teams had to deal with the tough field conditions and unpredictable turf.
Carlee Holmoe had the first threat of the day, but senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford was able to corral the ball and keep the Cougars off the scoreboard. Despite several early chances in the first 10 minutes of the match, the Aggie backline stood strong.
USU had its first shot on goal in the 27th minute when junior forward Mari Miyashiro fired a shot to BYU goalkeeper Erica Owens.
The Cougars got on the board first in the 30th minute when Jessica Ringwood took advantage of a slip in the USU defense and pushed the ball past Mulford to take the early 1-0 lead. The goal is the ninth of the season for Ringwood.
With less than seven minutes left in the half, USU fired off a flurry of shots by sophomore forward Lauren Roundy and junior midfielder Kendra Pemberton that were stopped by either the Cougar backline or by Owens. Both defenses were solid throughout the match.
BYU upped the scored to 2-0 in the 40th minute. Marissa Nimmer came in off the bench and scored her fourth goal of the season after being set up by Ringwood and Paige Hunt.
Utah State came out strong in the second half. In the 47th minute, sophomore defender Taryn Rose started the action with a free kick. Junior defender Jackie Tillotson scored her second goal of the season when she took the ball after a header by Tarver and knocked the ball past Owens to cut the Cougar lead in half 2-1.
The goal breathed new life into the Aggies. USU had three players with multiple shots, including junior forward Jennifer Flynn, Pemberton and Miyashiro.
In a very physical match, the Aggies hung tough against the taller Cougars. After the Utah State goal, both teams had opportunities. Pemberton challenged Owens in the 81st minute that brushed off of her finger tips and off the cross bar. As time ticked off the clock, the Aggies were not able to score the equalizing goal as the Cougars hung on for the 2-1 win. The Aggies lost by the exact same score that they lost to Auburn last season in the first round.
Utah State will be saying goodbye to a trio of seniors in defenders Natalie Norris and Kami Montgomery and senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford. The three ended their Utah State careers with a phenomenal 47-24-14 record during their four years.
"My four years here at Utah State have been amazing. To watch the program progress as it has especially the last two years, to make history on our own to be able to put everything behind us in the past and continue to move forward has been a major accomplishment for us. I know that from now on every team will strive for the NCAA Tournament," senior Natalie Norris said.
Fans can follow USU soccer at http://twitter.com/USUsoccer for WAC Tournament updates and Utah State athletics at http://twitter.com/USUAthletics.
Fans can also vote for senior defender Natalie Norris for the 2012 Senior CLASS Award® in collegiate soccer, as the Aggie player is just one of 10 NCAA® women's soccer student-athletes who excel both on and off the field that were selected as finalists for the award. Fans can vote at http://www.seniorclassaward.com/athletes/natalie_norris/.
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