WKU’s offense shined for the second straight match, firing three first-half goals as the Lady Toppers held back a furious UTEP comeback attempt in the second half to earn a 4-3 victory at the WKU Soccer Complex on Sunday afternoon.
Freshman Ambere Barnett continued her dynamic debut season on The Hill, playing a role in all four WKU (4-7-2, 2-4 C-USA) goals on the afternoon. Barnett scored the first and third goals herself while assisting on Sarah Gorham’s pair of goals, including what would become the match-winner in the 56th minute. Following Sunday’s match, Barnett leads the Lady Toppers in goals (five), assists (five) and total points (15) through 13 matches.
Gorham’s pair of goals capped a strong weekend for the Lexington, Ky., native who also had the match-winning goal on Friday night against FIU. Gorham led all players with four shots on the afternoon and played the entire 90 minutes despite the unseasonal heat.
In goal, Bailee Witt earned her fourth victory of the year and made three saves while playing the full 90 minutes between the pipes.
For UTEP (6-7-1, 1-4 C-USA), Lauren Crenshaw put all three of her shot attempts on goal and scored the Miners’ final goal directly off a free kick in the 84th minute. Alyssa Palacios played the opening half in goal and took the loss while making a pair of saves, and Caley Leask relieved her for the second half, also making two saves and giving up one goal.
Much like it did on Friday evening against FIU, WKU’s early offensive attack quickly cracked through the UTEP defense. At the 5:28 mark, Nicole Roseland played a ball up the right wing to Avery Jacobsen, who turned and fired a cross into the box. Barnett, lying in wait at the far post, made her jump on the cross and headed it toward goal, beating Palacios to give WKU the quick 1-0 lead.
Less than 15 minutes later, the Lady Toppers doubled their lead on a strike from Gorham. Set up by a cross from Megan Morris and a short chip pass from Barnett, the redshirt senior sent a blast from close range into the back of the net with 20:03 on the clock, putting WKU up 2-0 over the visiting Miners midway through the opening half.
Riding that momentum, WKU drew a foul 10 yards outside the box in the 34th minute, setting up a free kick opportunity in prime scoring position. Roseland initially ran over the ball without playing it, and Barnett followed on the second run, launching a shot straight at goal and scoring directly off the free kick for her second goal of the afternoon and a 3-0 advantage heading into the halftime break.
Carleigh Simmons closed the gap to two goals for the Miners just 27 seconds into the second half on her first goal of the season, but WKU answered right back at the 55:01 mark on another goal from Gorham. Set up yet again by a pinpoint pass from Barnett, Gorham fired from distance and beat Leask to the lower left corner to restore the three-goal advantage for the Lady Toppers, 4-1, with 35 minutes remaining.
Over the final 20 minutes, UTEP managed to score goals from Vic Bohdan (72nd minute) and Crenshaw (84th minute), but the Lady Topper defense held strong over the final five minutes of action, denying the Miners a chance to complete the comeback. With the victory, WKU ran its home unbeaten streak to eight consecutive matches (6-0-2) dating back to last season and defeated UTEP for the first time in program history.
Following its weekend sweep of FIU and UTEP, WKU has secured six points in the race for the C-USA Tournament and will continue its homestand with two matches next weekend. First, the Lady Toppers will battle North Texas on Friday evening at 6 p.m., then WKU will welcome Rice to the Soccer Complex next Sunday afternoon at 1 p.m.
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Currie P. McFayden
WKU Associate Director of Athletic Communications
Women’s Basketball | Women’s Soccer