After going the first five matches without a point, junior midfielder Kendra Pemberton broke out as Utah State captured a 2-1 overtime win against Utah Valley at Clyde Field Sunday.
"We set some definite goals for ourselves for this game that we had hoped to achieve, things that would help us be better than we were on Friday," USU head coach Heather Cairns said. "One of those goals was to connect more passes in the attacking third and I thought that we did a fairly good job of that after the first 10 minutes. We really settled down and were able to stick to that goal."
Pemberton's first goal of the season was the golden goal as the Aggies won the in-state battle in the 96th minute. After a Utah Valley foul, sophomore defender Taryn Rose launched a 55-yard shot into the box. Pemberton deposited the header past Wolverine goalkeeper, Jessica Duffin, and into the net for USU's winning goal.
"I think it is great that Kendra got on the board today, but what I’m more happy with is I think this is the most complete game she has played this season," Cairns said. "She’s been battling some injuries coming into this season which is why she started off a little slow, but Kendra is a fantastic player and our attack has to be able to go through her, so to get her feeling confident and playing her best soccer is ultimately what it’s about. She played a complete game for us today; she won balls in the air, she got crosses off when and where they need to go, she completed passes. As a forward, you can’t get too stuck on ‘did you get on the board today.’ Yes, that’s your job but that can’t be your only job. I think Kendra is mature enough to understand that there has to be more to her game than just scoring the goal."
With the win, USU improves to 4-1-1 this season, while the Wolverines fall to 1-3-0. The Aggies are now 2-0-0 in overtime matches this season and 2-0-0 against in-state rivals.
The Aggies wasted no time attacking the Wolverines early with sophomore forward Lauren Roundy taking a shot that was blocked by the Utah Valley backline. UVU also challenged early with a Shaylene Janis shot that was stopped by USU starting goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulford.
Utah State broke through in the 28th minute, when sophomore forward Jade Tarver took a pass from Pemberton in the midfield. She then made a long run and scored the goal to the right corner of the goal to put USU up 1-0. The goal was the first of the season by Tarver, and the first assist by Pemberton, who set the school record for single-season assists last season with seven.
The half would end with the Aggies clinging onto a 1-0 lead.
WIth 15:04 left in the match freshman midfielder Jamie Duke hit the cross bar, trying to extend the Utah State lead to 2-0.
Instead, just minutes later, UVU's Regan Benson tied the score in the 78th minute with her first goal of the season. She knocked in an unassisted goal to the upper left corner of the net past Mulford.
"Their set piece plays on cornerkicks and free kicks were fantastic, and we gave entirely way too many of them up. When they scored off that cornerkick, we were able to regroup and settle play down," Cairns said. "Going into overtime, we felt confident. We earned a foul and a free kick because we had players focusing on controlling the ball that were willing to settle the ball down to give us time to get numbers forward to get pressure to earn that foul. Taryn placed a great free kick to the far post and Kendra did what she does well, she’s a great ball-winner at the end of kicks and she put it away and we won."
USU will now head 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.