Utah State soccer had an 18-5 shots on goal advantage but were denied the net as the Aggies were nipped by Northern Colorado, 1-0, Friday afternoon at Chuck & Gloria Bell Soccer Field.
The loss was USU's first of the season, as the Aggies are now 3-1-1, while UNC won its first match of the year, improving to 1-2-1. Friday was also the Aggies' first loss to the Bears in the series history, which USU now holds a 3-1 edge in. It also snaps USU's home unbeaten streak at 14 straight.
Morgan Rynerason netted the lone goal of the match in the 70th minute, as Ambree Bellin took a free kick and lofted the ball into the 18-yard box, and Rynerason knocked the ball over USU freshman goalkeeper Jeannie Woller. That was UNC's lone shot on goal, as USU had eight of its 18 shots on goal, seven that were saved by Bears' netminder Natalie D'adamio, while another Aggie shot was cleared off the line by midfielder Tara Rickenbach in the first half.
"We had opportunities and we had plenty of them. We just couldn't finish. They had one shot on goal and they made it," junior midfielder Jennifer Flynn said. "That is how soccer works. It is not who shoots more, it is who scores more and they scored more. It was falling right today, people were getting pushed in the box. We have got to stand our own and finish it. We have just got to do it."
After five shots in the first half playing to a scoreless first 45 minutes, USU increased the pressure with 13 shots in the second stanza. Flynn had a total of three shots in the match, while junior midfielder Kendra Pemberton had six shots, as the Aggies peppered D'adamio and the Bears' goal but couldn't get the ball in the back of the net.
"If they had scored in the first half when I thought we weren't playing particularly well, we could accept that a little better," USU head coach Heather Cairns said. "To score on the only shot in the half is a little frustrating. We felt like we had some wasted opportunities. In the second half I thought we came out on fire and we adjusted a lot of issues at halftime and we got better. A combination of not being able to put those away, it comes back to bite you in the end."
Woller played the second half after senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford was in net for the first 45 minutes. Senior defender Natalie Norris and Taryn Rose played all 90 minutes on the back line to pace USU's defense.
"I think what showed, quite frankly, is our inexperience. That second half we had Nano [Natalie Norris] on the field as a senior and I think the inexperience and the players accountability really showed. In the first half we were making such poor decisions on the ball. Whenever it was obvious that we could keep it, we tried a home run ball and it really took us out of our rhythm. We need to establish that rhythm when we begin. We are great when possess but for some reason we got antsy with it and that set us in a bad tone. I thought we fixed that at half time but unfortunately if you let the game go that long, it's anybody's game. They finished a great opportunity and we weren't able to make those last 20 minutes count and put one back," said Cairns about the Aggies' frenzied attack in the final portion of the match in which they had several scoring chances but could not capitalize.
After the short, quick stop at home, the Aggies open a three-match road swing that starts Sunday at Utah Valley. Kickoff from Orem is slated for 1 p.m. at UVU's Clyde Field.
USU then heads to Portland, Ore., to play in the Portland State Viking Classic, facing Eastern Washington on Friday, Sept. 7, and then host Portland State on Sunday, Sept. 9. The Aggies then return home to host Washington on Friday, Sept. 13.
Doug Hoffman is the assistant athletic director for Utah State University Athletic Media Relations.