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UVU soccer: Wolverines top NJIT 2-0 in conference opener

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Kim Stratford squares up one of UVU's 34 shots Friday night against NJIT

Kim Stratford squares up one of UVU’s 34 shots Friday night against NJIT

Shane Truskolaski, UVU Athletics

OREM -- Utah Valley University got second half goals from seniors Nicole Slater and Regan Benson as it opened Great West Conference play with a 2-0 win over NJIT Friday night at Clyde Field.

"We always try to focus on starting the game and finishing the games correctly and I think we saw that today," UVU head coach Brent Anderson said. "The mental preparation was good. We were ready to play and we played a complete game."

UVU (3-10-1, 1-0-0) controlled the offensive pace for much of the match and, despite the 0-0 score line at halftime, held a 19-3 advantage in shots and a 10-0 lead in shots on goal over NJIT (2-9-3, 0-1-0).

The Wolverine breakthrough finally came in the 57th minute when sophomore McKell Salmon, working along the right side, sent a dangerous ball toward the back post. Highlander goalkeeper Samantha Bersett came off her line to try and intercept the cross, but the ball slipped through her hands and straight to Slater. The defender fired the ball right off the turf and into the net for her first career goal.

The score line now settled in its favor, UVU remained on the attack. With possession at midfield, sophomore midfielder Kim Stratford played a low through ball to Benson streaking to the top of the box. The senior forward took a couple touches before flicking the ball past a charging Bersett to make the score 2-0 in the 64th minute.

Benson's team-leading sixth goal would put the match out of reach, as the Wolverines held firm over the last 26 minutes for a 2-0 win.

After a 10-match winless skid, UVU has won its last two matches. Goalkeeper Lauren Sack - who went unchallenged in the match, recording only one save - registered her second straight clean sheet after the Wolverines defeated CSU Bakersfield 1-0 on Tuesday.

Lexi Robison took a team-high six shots in the match, followed by five attempts from Benson and Haley Curtis. Senior forward Shalayne Janis provided a spark off the bench, finishing with four shots.

Friday night was Wolverine soccer's annual Pink for a Purpose match. UVU honored former Wolverine cross-country/track and field athlete Kalina Clegg and Utah-native and former Alta High School soccer player Lexe Selman, each of whom are battling cancer. Donations for cancer research and treatment were taken at the match.

The Wolverines continue league play next week with an East Coast conference swing, visiting Howard in Washington, D.C. on Thursday and South Carolina State Saturday. Both fixtures will kick-off at 5 p.m. MT.

"With conference play starting tonight was a real chance for us to set a good tone heading into the rest of the conference games," Anderson said. "We know next week's games will be tough, but tonight's performance gives us a little confidence as we make that long trip back east."

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Kellen Hiser is sports information assistant at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.