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Utah State soccer: USU advances to WAC tournament title tilt

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RENO, Nevada — Top-seeded Utah State advanced to its first Western Athletic Conference Soccer Tournament final with a 1-0 win over fourth-seeded Boise State at Mackay Stadium. The win was the Aggies' school-record eighth-straight, giving USU an overall record of 13-7-1.

We are pretty happy. We knew this game against Boise was going to be a battle, USU head coach Heather Cairns said. In the regular season, it was an extremely hard-fought contest. We didn't expect meeting in the semifinals to be any different. It was a battle, and we were just fortunate to get one in the back of the net.

After a week off from play, Utah State started the match strong. In the 28th minute, there was a flurry of activity but Boise State goalkeeper Jennifer Burns made a save on a Candice Clark shot to keep the match scoreless. At the end of the first half, the Aggies out shot the Broncos, 7-4. Clark led the USU attack with three shots on goal, while junior forward Erin Salmon added two shots on goal.

With 1:12 left in the first half, the Aggies were dealt a major blow when they lost senior defender Alyssa Lowry for the match due to injury.

The Broncos came out strong in the second half with forward Randi Baker taking a shot that got past goalkeeper Ali Griffin, but was saved and cleared off the line by senior defender Jessie Malaska.

The Aggies scored the lone goal of the match in the 78th minute. Sophomore striker Lauren Hansen slipped the ball past Burns off the pass from junior midfielder Andrea Seledee. The goal was Hansen's team-leading eighth of the season. The all-WAC honoree is fourth in career goals scored with 17 and fifth in points scored with 39. Seledee now has two assists this season.

That goal totally summarizes our season. It was a total team effort, Hansen said. Candice (Clark) dribbled to the end and passes it in. Dre (Seledee) pokes it to me. We are just really unselfish. Candice could have shot it, or Dre could have shot it. We just set up each other so well.

In another physical battle between the Aggies and the Broncos, there were 26 fouls. In the regular season, the Aggies shut out the Broncos in Boise, 2-0, in a match that saw 50 fouls.

Obviously with Alyssa (Lowry) going down we had to rally as a team. But one of our strengths of the season is our depth, Cairns said. Jessie (Malaska) is a senior leader and is a fifth-year player for us. She doesn't say a lot, but when she does the team listens. She really helped pick up that leadership role. She was a huge reason that we kept them off the board in the second half.

The Aggies will take on the winner of Friday's late semifinal match between fourth-seeded Fresno State and sixth-seeded Nevada on Sunday, Nov. 9 at 2 p.m. MT. The winner not only wins the WAC title, but the conference's automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.