One brief moment when one thing went wrong and, on this beautiful desert Friday night, that was enough to spell heartbreak for UTEP.
UAB senior Rachel Green was briefly left unmarked off a short corner kick from teammate Amy Brewer and she buried it in the upper right corner of the net — ripped it into that upper corner where not even UTEP’s amazing keeper Alyssa Palacios had a chance to reach it.
And that was that.
UAB edged UTEP 1-0 Friday night at University Field in a tense and intense 90 minute duel between a pair of good Conference USA teams. It was the conference opener for the Blazers, who are now 7-2-1 overall.
That fleeting moment was enough to stop UTEP’s fine five-game winning streak, enough to level the Miner conference record at 1-1 and drop them to 5-6 on the season.
“I thought we played well enough to win,” UTEP coach Kevin Cross said. “We had some really prime opportunities to score but the ball just didn’t go in the goal. We had one mental breakdown on the corner kick when we left the short corner open and she (Green) buried it and that was the difference in the game unfortunately.”
The Miners did spend most of the final 45 minutes pressuring the UAB goal. The first half was a fairly level affair but the Miners seemed to be on the brink of scoring throughout that final half.
But, in the 70th minute of this hard fought duel, Green got a fleeting moment of freedom and took advantage.
UTEP had seven shots on goal and another pair that just skimmed over the crossbar but UAB keeper Kelsey Daugherty was always in position to turn anything good away.
Kennadie Chaudhary, who played well in the midfield, ripped one in the 25th minute that Daugherty tipped over the crossbar. Cayla Payne sent a header on target in the 41st minute. No. Vic Bohdan made a pair of big runs around the corner but her effort in the 82nd minute was turned away and one final blast by Lauren Crenshaw in the 86th minute was stopped.
“It wasn’t a bad game,” said Palacios, who had several outstanding saves of her own coming off her last week honor of C-USA Keeper of the Week. “We dominated most of the second half and we created opportunities. We just didn’t finish. And all it takes is one play.
“It was a good game,” Palacios said. “It was a game that could have gone either way. But we know we can compete.”
Defender Payton Ross, who was once again everywhere in the back for 90 minutes, said, “For me, this is even more disappointing. We felt we had the chances, we controlled the play and we didn’t win.
“We had our chances,” Ross said. “Now it’s just a matter of putting them away. We especially had the chances in the second half but sometimes that’s just the way the game goes. We had Vic (Bohdan) and Anna (Jimmerson), two freshmen up top who played very well. We just couldn’t get it in. Sometimes all you need is just that little toe-tap in the back of the net.”
The Miners did not get that toe tap on this beautiful Friday night. UAB got that one fleeting moment and took advantage.
UTEP will next play defending C-USA champion Charlotte next Friday night at University Field … looking for that toe-tap or a blast or even just one fleeting moment to go their way.
Bill Knight may be reached at 546-6171; firstname.lastname@example.org; @BillKnightept on Twitter.