Utah State women's soccer: 2nd-half surge lifts Aggies to win over Nevada

By Doug Hoffman

For the Deseret News

Published: Monday, Oct. 17 2011 10:17 a.m. MDT

RENO, Nev. — Two second-half goals powered the Utah State women's soccer team over Nevada Sunday as a defensive battle transformed into a 2-0 Aggie victory.

With the win, Utah State betters its record to 11-4-1 overall and 3-1-0 in Western Athletic Conference action. The three WAC wins give USU nine points in hopes of qualifying for the upcoming WAC Tournament in Fresno,Calif., Nov. 3-6.

The Aggies have now won at least 10 matches in six of the last nine seasons. Utah State is now just two wins away from tying the school record for wins in a season.

Nevada, meanwhile, falls to 3-13 overall and 1-3 in league action.

The victory was the Aggies' first road win since defeating Northern Colorado, 2-1, on Aug. 28. Utah State is now 3-4-1 on the road this year.

"In the first half we just played okay. At halftime, we really made a bit of a mental shift. We made a pact as a team that we were going to come out and be optimistic. Whether we scored in the first minute of the half or the last minute of the half, we were going to keep pushing. We were going to believe that we would score," USU head coach Heather Cairns said.

In the first half — Utah State's Molli Merrill and Nevada's Dana Moreno — kept the scoreline tied at 0-0. Merrill ended the half with one save, while Moreno made three. The Aggies took the first three shots of the match with senior midfielder Chandra Salmon-Christensen, senior forward Shantel Flanary and sophomore midfielder Kendra Pemberton.

In the 70th minute, the Aggies broke through when junior defender Natalie Norris snapped the 0-0 tie with a header for her third goal of the season. Two of Norris' three goals have come off corner kicks, including Sunday's. The goal came off a corner kick by senior defender Summer Tillotson, who earned her fifth assist of the season. Tillotson leads the team with 33 corner kicks.

Utah State doubled its lead in the 86th minute when Pemberton continued her red-hot streak. The sophomore has scored nine points in the Aggies' last three matches. The reigning WAC Offensive Player of the Week put the Aggies up 2-0 late in the match.

It also got started off of a corner by Tillotson. Pemberton scored by taking a deflection off of a Wolf Pack defender after the corner and scored on an open net in what was her fifth goal of the season. Pemberton's five goals are combined with seven assists this season for 17 points, which is just three points behind Aggie point-leader Flanary.

Merrill and the always-tough Aggie defense registered their sixth shutout of the season and second in WAC action. Merril ended the match with three saves.

The Aggies remain on the road next week with just one match on the docket. USU will travel to Moscow, Idaho to take on the University of Idaho on Friday, Oct. 21 at 4 p.m. for its final regular-season road game.

Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University.

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