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UTEP takes third-consecutive Battle of I-10 matchup

Courtesy UTEP Athletics

Mackenzie German (18:41) and Jade Babcock (60:41) found the back of the net to help lead UTEP to a 2-1 victory at New Mexico State Wednesday afternoon. It marks the third triumph in as many tries for the Miners (7-2) in the Battle of I-10 on the pitch against the Aggies (1-5-1).

Tess Hall added an assist for UTEP, which has won three straight and six of the past seven matches. The helper for Hall is the 24th of her career, which lifts her into a tie for fourth place all time at the school. The record is 30, held by former Miner star and 2012 Olympic Bronze medalist Kelly Parker.

Sophomore GK Sarah Dilling registered three saves while also making a couple plays off her line to wipe out chances before they materialized. Aggie netminders Jessica Schutter and Mikaela Bitner combined to make six saves in the match.

Elise Nordin was responsible for NM State’s only goal of the game at 63:22, where she managed to beat Dilling off a free kick from just outside the box. UTEP enjoyed an 8-4 advantage in shots on goals.

There were 19 fouls in the contest, including 12 on the Orange and Blue, and NM State’s bench personnel was assessed both a yellow and red card.

"I am very proud of the girls winning a big road match against a very talented NMSU team," head coach Kevin Cross said. "Today was a battle and NMSU gave us a huge test. The game was a great way to end our non-conference play."

UTEP showed good composure in the early stages, staving off a trio of corner kicks over the first 15 minutes with a dominant effort in the air. The Miners’ offense came to life soon thereafter, with German headlining the charge. She picked up a ball off a touch from Hall and then turned in a solid run. German juked past some defenders, carried things into the box and bested Schutter with a lower hard shot from about 14 yards out for her fourth goal of the season.

A few minutes later some good passing once again set up German on the far side. The NM State defense poked the ball clear to set up a corner kick. Hall deftly played the ball to Brittany Kindzierski. She unleashed a shot that Schutter bobbled momentarily before snatching it out of the air at 29:38.

Dilling was called upon for the first time of the match in the 38th minute. A low show by Layla Todd was handled seemingly with ease on a quick dive to her right.

With the score still 1-0 in the second stanza, the Miners started to turn up their energy. Three consecutive passes put UTPE on the goalmouth but the ball was cleared by the Aggies. It bounced to Azia Nicholson, who settled it before firing the shot. It was blocked, though, by the NM State defense. Two minutes later it was Tori Martyn with the chance. Her shot was gobbled up by Bitner.

The pressure would pay off, though, as the Miners extended their lead to 2-0. Dilling played a booming ball which was tapped by Hall to Babcock. Babcock then spun and fired an absolute laser that twickled the twine in upper 90’s country.

The home side trimmed into the lead two minutes later after a foul on UTEP. Nordin powered the ball over the wall and past Dilling from roughly 19 yards away.

The Miners regrouped and rededicated their attack after allowing the tally. Babcock was turned away twice while Bitner also registered saves on respective tries from Nicholson and Kindzierski.

The Aggies’ last gasp came in the final 10 minutes but Dilling punched away a service by Kate Smith in the 80th minute and then picked off a thru ball that could have led to a breakaway.

UTEP closed out the contest in style, milking the clock down brilliantly with play in the corner and not allowing NM State any other chances.

The Miners, who will be idle for more than a week, will resume play when they christen Conference USA action at East Carolina at 5 p.m. MT Sept. 21. The match will be the first of four straight in hostile territory to kick off league play.