<strong>LOGAN—</strong> The Utah State University woman’s soccer team capped off their dream season by clinching an automatic bid to the NCAA women’s soccer tournament when they beat the Denver Pioneers, 1-0.
The Aggies won the WAC regular season championship and took home the WAC tournament championship trophy as well. It was a hard fought battle that saw both teams miss opportunities on the offensive end.
“To be able to win this on our home field with this many fans is incredible,” USU head coach Heather Cairns said. “We made that early goal stick and both teams had chances to score and we were fortunate to keep them off the board. We did what needed to be done today to get the win.
“We showed a lot of heart today. Our girls kept plugging away and we got it done today. Today we set a goal to be the best team on the field and we were.”
The Aggies relied heavily on their defense this game as they have all year. The only goal of the game was an own goal by Denver defender Cassidy Larson after a miscommunication play with the Pioneer keeper, Lara Campbell that happened in the third minute to give USU the lead.
“The defender just took a bad judgment,” tournament MVP Natalie Norris said. “Denver played an amazing game other than that but we were able to put the pressure on to get that one goal at that’s all it took.”
Both teams started out sluggish, beginning with the own goal. Neither team was able to establish an offensive game as the defense came up big for both sides neglecting all scoring opportunities. The Aggies and Pioneers picked up the intensity in the beginning of the second half as the momentum shifted from side to side. Denver had lots of chances to score on counter attacks, but senior goalkeeper Ashlyn Mulfurd came up with some huge saves.
“Our team played really well today and we had fun,” defender Jackie Tillotson said. “We had a solid back line and our offense went at it. We wanted the win and we went out and got it today.”
Five Aggies earned all-tournament player awards led by Norris and Mulfurd. The Aggies will now advance to play in the NCAA tournament later this month where they look to improve on their opening exit from a year ago.
“We worked so hard all season just for this,” Midfielder Brooke Larsen said. “It started off a little sluggish but we kept a defensive shut out, which was one of our goals. We played with a lot of hart and played for each other and we came out on top.”
“This is huge. To come out and get a win and be champions means the world to us,” Norris said. “With all this support from our fans it was unbelievable.”