Utah State beats MW tournament ticket with 2-0 win over Boise State

LOGAN, Utah – Need to win? Consider it won. In a do-or-die game, Utah State football led wire-to-wire for a 2-0 win over Boise State, securing the USU a place in the Mountain West tournament on the final day of regular season action . “Really happy for our team,” said head coach Manny Martins. “I think over the course of the last four games they’ve earned every bit of this chance to get into the tournament. So I’m glad we were able to get it. I’m very happy for them. It was a great performance . I think they deserved to be there.” The Aggies took control in the very first minute of the game. On Senior Day, it was seniors Jordan Foraker and Sammie Murdock who put the USUs in the driver’s seat together. Foraker dispossessed a Bronco defender and gave a pass to Murdock in the top corner of the penalty area. Murdock lifted a shot over BSU goalkeeper Genevieve Crenshaw and into the top right corner in front of the goal just 23 seconds into the game. “You couldn’t wish for a better start,” said Murdock. “We came out and scored in the first 25 seconds. It took everyone on the pitch to get the dub… That felt good, especially on Senior Day. I have to give all the credit to Jordan (Foraker), another senior , she really came out and helped me.” Even with a one-goal lead, the Aggies remained the aggressor in the first half, beating the Broncos, 9-5, for the first 45 minutes of action. Senior Diera Walton made three of her five saves of the day in the first half, allowing USU to go into halftime with the lead intact. “That first half felt like a very long half,” Martins said. “But it’s always great. I’d rather have a goal for than a goal so early. It just kind of showed the energy and the mentality with which the team came out.” In keeping with that energy, USU came out of halftime with their sights back on target and a shot on target within a minute of play resumed. Later in the 54th minute, the Aggies broke through for an all-important insurance goal when sophomore Rine Yonaha took a shot from a pass from Murdock at the top of the 18-yard box and the ball went in just below the crossbar. Junior Kelsey Kaufusi also assisted in the game. “We had to win this game to make it to the tournament, so I was like, ‘I have to score. We have to win,'” Yonaha said. “The last two games we were tied, 0-0, and we couldn’t score. This week we practiced the last third and we were ready to score.” The lead proved insurmountable as the Aggie defense geared up to thwart any semblance of a Bronco comeback in the final 35 minutes of regulation. Even leading 2-0, USU still defeated Boise State 5-3 in the final third of the game. Utah State finished with a 16-10 lead in total shots and a 7-5 lead in shots on target. The Aggies completed their conference schedule by beating their opponent in both categories in every game. “It kind of shows the character of the team,” said Martins. “Since we got here, we wanted to be a team that would lead the way. This is something we’ve been working on for 18 months now, and still a project we’re working on, but it’s a really good sign. Now it’s trying a little bit to be more consistent in putting some of those things away. Today they did that.” As the clock struck 90 minutes, the bench emptied as the team gathered near midfield to celebrate winning their ticket to the MW tournament. “I really thought we deserved this,” said Walton. “We worked hard and scored a blast in the first 24 seconds, so I think we really deserved it. I’m proud of my team.” The shutout was Walton’s 20th of her career, extending USU’s shutout streak to four games, tying for the longest such streak since the team went six games without conceding a goal in 2011. Walton also ranked second all-time at Utah State as goalkeeper minutes played with 5,570 minutes played, past former Aggie Ali Griffin. Walton now only tracks the former Aggie Molli Merrill’s score of 5,713 minutes played. “It felt great,” said Walton. “This year has been very difficult for me. I think in order to help my team, I have to help myself first. I think the team helps and motivates me every day to come here and do what I do best. ” Utah State celebrated Senior Day prior to the game, honoring Foraker, Murdock, Marren Nielsen, Kelsey Salvesen-Harmer and Sara Taylor. The win gives the seniors another chance to don the Aggie uniform. “I’m so happy. I was a bit emotional today,” said Martins. “These are kids who, when we got here about 18 months ago, embraced the ideas that we brought with us and everything we try to do. In some ways, we made them uncomfortable. They could have resisted, but embraced instead. They are at least the reason why we are where we are now. It is because of the leadership and those who have taken the step to run with what we have brought. Really happy to be able to play some more football.” Utah State (8-5-7, 5-3-3 MW) will play in the first round of the MW tournament in Albuquerque, New Mexico, on Sunday. USU’s opponent and playing time for Sunday have yet to be determined. Fans can follow the Aggie football schedule on Twitter, @USUSoccer, on Facebook at /USUSoccer and on Instagram, @USUSoccer. Aggie fans can also follow Utah State’s athletics program on Twitter, @USUAthletics, Facebook at /USUAthletics and on Instagram, @USUAthletics. – USU –

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