PROVO, Utah – The Utah Valley University soccer team hung tight with the No. 9 team in the country, but a BYU goal just before halftime proved to be the difference as UVU fell 1-0 in front of a crowd of 3,589 at South Field Thursday night.
"We knew this would be a difficult game - it's been a difficult game for every one of BYU's opponents this season," Wolverine head coach Brent Anderson said. "But we came in with a game plan centered around defense and I'm so proud of the way the team played and held it together tonight against a very confident BYU team."
Despite trailing 10-1 in shots, UVU (1-9-1) kept BYU (11-1-0) off the scoreboard for the first 44 minutes of play behind a steady defensive effort and three huge saves from goalkeeper Lauren Sack. But with the clock ticking toward a scoreless halftime break, Cougar defender Dana Cusick sent a through ball ahead to forward Jessica Ringwood. The senior took the pass behind the defense and needed one touch to slip past a sliding Sack before slotting her shot into the open net only 40 seconds before the halftime whistle.
The home side remained on the offensive in the second half, tallying six more shots over the first 30 minutes of the second frame and forcing Sack into two more saves.
The Wolverines' best opportunity to equalize came only past halftime when Regan Benson sent a cross-field through pass into the box for a streaking Natalie Baker up the right side. The pass was just a little too heavy, though, as BYU keeper Erica Owens gobbled up the ball just before Baker's arrival.
Baker created another chance in the 75th minute when she was able to get up the left sideline. Curling her sprint toward the box, she lifted a left-footed foot drive at the Cougar goal. But Owens was there again, cradling the ball into her body on a diving effort.
BYU nearly put the match out of reach when it won a free kick 22 yards out after a UVU foul. Cloee Colohan bent her shot over the wall of defenders and toward the upper left hand corner but was denied by Sack's outstretched fingers.
Sack, a junior, finished with eight stops on the night, repeatedly keeping the Wolverines alive on the scoreboard.
"This is the performance we've been looking for from Lauren [Sack]," Anderson said. "This is what we expect from her and this is what she's capable of."
With the win, the 9th-ranked Cougars extended their winning streak to nine games and improved to a perfect 7-0 at South Field this season.
Defenders Kelsey Cook and Courtney Wilson played all 90 minutes for the UVU.
Lexi Felis had the Wolverines' only other shot on goal on the night, chipping a looping shot toward the bottom corner in the 20th minute that was kept out by a sprawling Owens.
UVU's six-game road swing comes to an end in the Golden State as the Wolverines square off with Loyola Marymount Sunday in Los Angeles and CSU Bakersfield Tuesday. Both matches are slated for 2 p.m. kickoffs.
Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
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