USU Soccer goes the distance in important conference win

usu soccer

Bailee Hammond netted two goals, one in double-overtime, off of assists by freshman Ashley Cardozo Friday afternoon to seal a victory in a must-win game for the USU women’s soccer team against UNLV, 2-1.

Cardozo’s two successful dishes to the senior Hammond were the most beautiful rendition one could ask for of “assisting the elderly.” Cardozo, just out of Olympus High School in Holladay, Utah, was all over the field contributing in every possible way for the Aggies in the win. For Hammond, the double-overtime game-winner was the third game-winning goal Hammond has scored as an Aggie, the other two occurring last season.

“Man, we worked hard for that,” head coach Heather Cairns said. “It was nice to see it go our way.” The win proves crucial for USU, who are needing all the point they can get to sneak their way into the Mountain West Conference Tournament starting Oct. 31.

Momentum shifts played a big role in this match as the Rebels were on top of the Aggies offensively for much of the first half. When the Aggies were managing to get into attack mode, miscommunication killed the flow of the offense.

One of UNLV’s biggest scoring opportunities was saved by goalkeeper Sarah Cobb at the top of the goal box, who unfortunately took a cleat to the face in the 18th minute. Out for injury, Cobb did not return to action, conceding the remainder of the match to backup Grace McGuire. McGuire responded throughout the game with save after save, anchoring a solid defensive effort for USU.

The Aggies had an easy opportunity served to them when senior Erin Rickenbach found herself with possession mere yards in front of the goal and only the keeper in between, but her attempt to blast it through didn’t connect with a certain important spherical object, and Rickenbach’s leg found thin air in the blown shot.

USU’s first shot on goal didn’t come until the 30th minute, and by that time, the Rebels had managed three. The turnaround began almost immediately, and the Aggies got several more good looks in the next eight minutes, flipping the field of play and spending more time in attack mode until halftime.

In the second half, UNLV jumped on the Aggies again, nearly scoring when the Rebels’ Michaela Morris was too late to notice the ball sitting right next to her in the goal box, and USU got it out in time. USU quickly responded to the attack, driving the possession downfield and forcing a goal kick. On the goal kick by UNLV, Cardozo foiled the pass attempt and turned it into a golden opportunity, taking the ball downfield and assisting across the box to Hammond for the goal at the 58th minute.

UNLV immediately began to push the Aggies back on defense, playing on attack mode for the remaining of regulation. UNLV’s Morris defibrillated the Rebels hopes with a goal which bounced around the keeper box before rebounding off USU goalie with only 34 seconds of regulation time left. It wasn’t the first time that USU had squandered a key opportunity, as clutch moments have been out of favor with the Aggies all season.

In the following overtime, USU took out their frustrations on the field in more ways than one. Not only did the Aggie offense go into attack mode, the fire showed in the eyes of Aggies’ Wesley Hamblin when she misunderstood a foul call on Cardozo to be on her. Hamblin’s reaction was one of “dissent”, the official term, and she was yellow-carded after jawing with officials for a time.

The fire never went out until the very end, even though it took yet another overtime, and Cardozo found Hammond for the golden goal a mere minute and a half into double overtime.

“It is the best feeling in the world to turn around and have 30 of your best friends run into you,” Hammond said.

The Aggies finished the weekend with a 4-0 road victory against Nevada, pushing the team to 6-4-3 on the season. Regular season play will conclude on Friday at home against Boise State and the conference tournament starts Oct. 31 in Las Vegas.


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