Aggie women start 2017 season with a win

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Double overtime was on the menu for the Aggies where after 100 minutes of play, Utah State soccer won their season opener. USU defeated the visiting South Dakota Jackrabbits 1-0.

Utah State came in Friday off an exhibition win against Southern Utah that saw four separate Aggies score in the 4-0 shutout.

Last year, the Aggies defeated the Jackrabbits 1-0 in the season opener.

South Dakota pressed the ball early, resulting in a handful of shots. They launched a corner that was deflected by USU defenders, resulting in another corner. The visitors would challenge again with a shot that bounced high off the crossbar.

Utah State’s best scoring opportunity came in the 19th minute as midfielder Wesley Hamblin was fed a through ball in the box by Bailee Hammond. Hamblin’s shot would end up being saved by the SDSU keeper.

South Dakota’s best chance came on a misplayed ball that resulted in Jackrabbit forward Leah Manuleleua, who missed the one-on-one shot wide left.

Miscommunicating passes seemed to plague the Aggies as they were unable to string together passes resulting in few legitimate runs down the field. Back cuts, however, were flirted with by Utah State which caught the Jackrabbits off-guard a handful of times.  

Head coach Heather Cairns pointed out that better passing leads to more possession.

“Possession is important for us,” Cairns said. “If we have the ball, we aren’t defending and defending expels more energy than offense.” She added that more possession leads to fewer chances for opponents to score.

The Jackrabbits earned three corners in the first period, two more than the Aggies. Utah State did have one more shot in the first half (4-3).

The Aggies started the second half in more control than they were in the first half but failed on multiple opportunities. Fatigue looked to set in.

South Dakota threatened on a string of possessions, including one that send Aggie defenders sprawling to the floor. After a near 10-minute stretch, the Jackrabbits found a clear shot that hit the top of the crossbar and went sailing over.

In the 82nd minute, after a chain of midfield passes, Hamblin found herself with the ball behind defenders. She would send the ball into the box, meeting Hammond – whose shot looped over the crossbar.

Hamblin looked to make the most of her touches with several trips down the right side of the field. One of those opportunities looked like it bounced off a Jackrabbit defender out of bounds, resulting in a corner kick, but was ruled a goal kick.

Freshman midfielder Ashley Cardozo looked like a maestra as she put on a dribbling showcase, winning  50-50 balls and weaving in and out of the defense.

After 90 minutes, the Aggies racked up eight shots compared to seven from South Dakota, resulting in five saves for the visitors. South Dakota had four corner kicks compared to two from Utah State.

The first overtime saw the Aggies chasing early and often, including an Alecia Robinson header off a volley into the box. They would have two near back-to-back scoring opportunities with both shots sailing over the goal.

Defender Mealii Enos, who played all 102 minutes, said she looks to be the vocal leader in the backfield.

“That’s just kind of the player I am,” Enos said.

“I think it helps our team stay together, and it also helps me to be a better player.

Double overtime started much the same, but the Aggies got their long-awaited goal. After spending the game on the prowl, and an assist by Hamblin, Cardozo launched a shot that escaped the keeper’s’ gloves and found paydirt. Aggies win – 1-0.  

“I think as a team, we all wanted to get the results, so we were all going for the win,” Cardozo said. As for how the goal ranks in her career?

“It’s up there.”

Cardozo would end with a pair of shots-on-goal and over 75 minutes of action.

“We like to surround her with players and forwards that know her ability,” Cairns said.

“We like to give her freedom.”

Utah State ended with 12 shots (six on-goal) and goalkeeper Sara Cobb notched three saves.

Before the game, the Utah Youth Soccer Association held a clinic for roughly 130 soccer players who stuck around and got autographs after the match-up.

The Aggies will go on to host Montana on Sunday at 1 p.m. at the Chuck and Gloria Bell Field.

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