Merrill Shutout Secures Second-Straight WAC Title For USU Soccer Sunday

LOGAN, Utah – Utah State women’s soccer earned its second-straight Western Athletic Conference regular-season title and third in four years with a hard-fought 0-0 tie against Fresno State on Sunday at Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field. On Senior Day, seniors Molli Merrill, Shantel Flanary, Marissa Sanchez, Chandra Salmon-Christensen and Summer Tillotson all earned their third WAC title in their USU careers as the Aggies won in 2008 and shared the title with San Jose State in 2010. They are the first Aggies to win three titles. Merrill, Tillotson and Salmon Christensen play all 110 minutes of the match.With the tie, Utah State ends the regular season with a 13-4-2 record and a 5-1-1 conference mark. The Aggies have won at least five WAC matches every year since the 2005 season. Last season, the Aggies were 5-2-1 in league play. Fresno State is now 10-4-5 overall and 4-1-2 in conference action. Utah State will be the No. 1 seed in the upcoming WAC Tournament which will be hosted by Fresno State, Nov. 3-4, 6. The Bulldogs secured the No. 2 and will have a first-round bye along with the Aggies.”It’s amazing. Anytime you win a WAC Championship, it’s not easy. It is a long road and there are a lot of games. We felt like today we battled hard and felt like a tie was deserving. We didn’t generate a lot of attack as we would have liked, but our defense pulled through. Molli Merrill was amazing. Every save that Molli made was a game changing save. She was huge in the game today. I think we owe a lot of the success to her and just the way we defended as a whole. We didn’t generate as much of an attack as we would have liked which is evident on the score sheet, but defensively we were able to come through,” USU head coach Heather Cairns said.The defensive battle started with Fresno State coming out very aggressive. Callie Hancock tested Aggie goalkeeper Merrill early with a shot that was saved by the USU netminder in the fourth minute. She would also hit the cross bar in the fifth minute. The Bulldogs took the first six shots of the match with Merrill grabbing three saves.The Bulldogs out-shot the Aggies, 10-6 in the first half and 19-11 for the match. USU would end the first 45 minutes with two of the final three shots of the period. In the second half, the defensive battle continued as both defenses were solid the whole match. After a very active first half, there would be only two more shots on goal the rest of the match, both by Fresno State.Sophomore midfielder Kendra Pemberton provided some of the Aggies’ best chances to score. She hit the crossbar in the 67th minute and missed a shot wide in the 82nd minute.Regulation would end frantically with Fresno State’s Molly Nizzoli getting off two corner kicks in the final 10 seconds of the half. After 90 minutes of play the score remained 0-0. The overtime match was the fourth of the season for USU. The Aggies are now 1-1-2 in extra time this season.In the 110th minute, Merrill made her final match-saving save on a Nizzoli shot to keep the score 0-0.Merrill ended the match with five saves, which is her most in a WAC match this season. The Aggies ended the match with six total saves. The shutout was the fourth-straight for the senior goalkeeper. She has not allowed a goal since the Aggies fell 2-1 at Hawai‘i on Sept. 30. For the season, Merrill and the USU defense have nine shutouts which is one shy of the USU record of 10 set by the 2003 squad led by goalkeeper Megan Mills.”It meant a lot, on Senior Day; I wanted to come out here and have a good game. I did it for the team. How many games have I not had to do much the whole game, so I wanted to be the back up for them, to let them know I was there for them like they are there for me,” Merrill said.For the first time in USU history, the Aggies ended the regular season without a loss at home. Utah State was 8-0-1 at Chuck and Gloria Bell Soccer Field this season.Utah State now prepares for the WAC Tournament as the top seed. The Aggies will have a bye into the semifinals on Friday, Nov. 4 at 1 p.m. MT. The bracket will be announced by the WAC later Sunday.Fans can follow USU soccer on Twitter at at USU Soccer and Utah State Athletics at USUAthletics. GOALS BY PERIOD 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 Total Fresno State 0 0 0 0 0Utah State 0 0 0 0 0SHOTS BY PERIOD 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 Total Fresno State 10 6 2 1 19Utah State 7 3 1 0 11SAVES BY PERIOD 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 Total Fresno State 3 0 0 0 3Utah State 4 0 1 1 6CORNERS BY PERIOD 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 Total Fresno State 1 4 2 0 7Utah State 4 1 0 1 6FOULS BY PERIOD 1st 2nd OT1 OT2 Total Fresno State 1 2 1 0 4Utah State 6 2 0 1 9

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