Utush’s Hat Trick Leads SDSU Past UNM in MW Final
Nov. 4, 2017
LAS VEGAS -
San Diego State senior forward Aliyah Utush posted a hat trick to lead the Aztecs past New Mexico, 3-0, in the Mountain West championship game Saturday night in Las Vegas. The win sends SDSU to the NCAA tournament for the first time since 2014.
“I am really excited to get to the championship tonight for the team and the players; they’ve really worked hard all season,” head coach Mike Friesen said. “The chemistry has been fantastic and in the last half of the season we started to play the way we knew we could. This week, we were very gritty and didn’t play our best soccer either day. There were some windy conditions early in the game. I thought New Mexico did a good job of sucking us into their game, but once we were able to put the ball on the ground and played in the second half, we were able to get those three goals. It was fantastic way to end the regular season and we’re excited to move onto the NCAA tournament.”
The Mountain West tournament title is the fifth in school history for the Aztecs, all under Friesen’s watch, and the seventh tourney crown in program history. SDSU (12-7-2) now has 10 MW championships with Friesen guiding the Aztecs to nine of them.
As for the automatic NCAA berth SDSU received, next week’s appearance will mark the program’s first since 2014, and seventh overall. The Aztecs have earned an NCAA invitation five times under Friesen.
SDSU, which was playing in its conference-record sixth straight MW final, lifted the trophy and secured a spot in the NCAA tournament field after a dynamic effort by Utush. After a scoreless first half, San Diego State struck first similar to its semifinal game Thursday afternoon. In the 58th minute, Ariana Robles cleared the ball just outside of the box and played the ball over the top. From there, Aliyah Utush beat goalkeeper Emily Johnson for her seventh goal of the year.
Later in the contest, nearly 20 minutes later, Johnson failed to clear the ball successfully and the wayward attempt found Hailey Balma along the right flank near midfield. The senior sent the ball across the field to Utush, who beat a defender and sent her shot into the back of the net.
Then to complete the fourth hat trick in tournament history and just the second in the championship game, Utush got around her defender and one-timed it past a diving Johnson from the upper corner of the box. Her 81st-minute goal put her in the company of former teammate Victoria Barba, who posted a hat trick in last year’s MW final.
SDSU was outshot by New Mexico (12-8-2), 15-13, but owned an advantage in shots on goal, 8-6. Utush had a game-high four shots, all of which were on net. Mia Root added three shots of her own to help lead the Aztec offense.
Defensively, SDSU was stout again, pitching a shutout, which was Gabby English’s seventh of the season. For her effort, English was named to the all-tournament team along with defenders Dani DeRosa and Stacie Moran. Utush earned her way onto the squad as well and was named the tournament MVP after totaling four goals in the tourney.
The Aztecs will now await their opponent at next week’s NCAA tournament. The NCAA Selection Show is scheduled for Monday at 1:30 p.m. PT on NCAA.com.