It was déjà vu all over again Friday night for the USU women’s soccer team, as they defeated in-state PAC-12 rival Utah 1-0 at Rio Tinto stadium in Sandy on a 93rd minute golden goal winner by Jennifer Flynn.
The Aggies, tired after a full match of goalless soccer, came into overtime thinking offensively, and their ambition paid off. Just more than a minute into the extra period, Aggie forward Jade Tarver earned her team a corner kick by chasing down a loose ball behind the Ute defense and forcing the defender to clear it over the end line. Aggie outside midfielder Kendra Pemberton took the ensuing corner kick, and it was headed away from goal, but not completely clear.
Jennifer Flynn collected the ball a few yards inside the penalty area’s right line and took a shot. Utah keeper Cheyanne Mulcock tracked the shot to the far post from its inception, but Flynn’s shot deflected off a Ute defender hard to the near post, and Mulcock couldn’t recover in time.
“I did see there were two girls coming from either side of me, so if I would have waited half a second longer, they both would have been on me. I just fired a shot and it went in.” Flynn said of her goal. “After that I was just like, ‘Thank God. It’s over. We’re done.’ It was a great feeling.”
The shot was eerily similar to the finale of the 2009 edition of the Utah-USU women’s soccer match at Rio Tinto. In that game, former star forward Shantel Flanary chased down a ball behind the defense and took a shot that also deflected off the defender and over the keeper’s head for a golden goal overtime winner.
Just like Flanary’s goal in 2009, Flynn’s 2012 version came in the first five minutes of overtime to defeat the Utes.
“It was a ball that was crossed that kind of got deflected off a defender and sealed it for us,” USU head coach Heather Cairns said. “It’s sort of becoming a theme.”
“We love it here,” Flynn said. “Luckily we’ve never lost here, and we’d like to keep it that way.”
Before Flynn’s overtime heroics, however, the Aggie women were soundly outplayed, particularly in the second half. Utah had no less than four divine opportunities to poke in a winning goal. In every case, either the finishing touch was absent from the Utes’ boots, or an Aggie defender was there to clear the ball away.
The first of these opportunities came in the 57th minute. Aggie defender Summer Tillotson committed a foul in the defensive third of the field, surrendering a free kick from 35 yards out. The ensuing free kick found Ute midfielder Katie Rigby’s unmarked head, but Rigby couldn’t keep the strike on frame.
The Aggies regained some of their composure shortly after that, but from about the 70th minute on, the possession and run of play in this match belonged squarely with the Utes.
“I’m not sure we were the better team on the day, to be honest with you,” Cairns said. “We didn’t play particularly great. When we had the opportunity to possess the ball, it wasn’t as quick as it needed to be, and we were giving away passes that we should complete. In the attack, we didn’t generate as many shots as we’re used to. We’re going to have to get better.”
During that 20-minute stretch, Utah had several golden opportunities that slipped through their fingers. Katie Rigby missed on another wide-open header in the 77th minute, and in the 88th minute, no less than four Aggie defenders recovered to the goal line to stop Megan Tarbert’s attempt from two yards out.
“I give all the credit to the back line,” Mulford said. “I mean, they saved my butt, they saved the rest of our butts. Everyone was here to play today. They went out there and did their job.”
“We had some key players step up,” Cairns said. “Ashlyn Mulford in goal, Natalie Norris and Taryn Rose as our two centerbacks, and Maris Hamblin and Lexi Morgan as the two defensive center mids. We were so strong down that spine that they really saved our bacon quite a few times.”
With this win, Utah State women’s soccer remains undefeated on their “home field” of Rio Tinto Stadium. Their next game is on Sunday at noon against UTEP, and it will be played on USU’s true home field, Bell Field on USU campus in Logan.