SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – Carly Nelson stopped a penalty kick in the 88th minute and No. 25 Utah stymied No. 10 USC in a goalless draw to open Pac-12 play. The two squads who met in last season's NCAA Regional Semifinals could not be separated after 110 minutes and a pair of overtime periods.
"I am very proud of our team for going toe-to-toe with a fantastic USC side," head coach Rich Manning said. "We played with a lot of competitive spirit and got some big performances. I thought we defended really well and in the moments we were able to settle ourselves and find spaces, we created good scoring opportunities."
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Nelson stopped a career-high 10 shots, but none were bigger than denying Savannah DeMelo's penalty try. After a foul on the left side of the penalty area, Nelson calmly stopped DeMelo's shot and Paola van der Veen was able to clear the rebound away.
"I said 'I am going to stop this. I have got this,'" Nelson said. "Our defenders were playing really well and I am just so proud of them for helping maintain the shutout today."
It was the second shutout of the season for Nelson and the Utes, while it was the fifth of the sophomore's career.
Utah had the first chance of the game in the fifth minute when a foul gave Van der Veen a free kick. Her try was blocked out of play for a corner and on the ensuing attempt, Aleea Gwerder's header sailed over the bar.
Nelson was called into action for the first time when she denied Leah Pruitt and after a Hailey Skolmoski miss, Nelson denied DeMelo for the first time.
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Utah continued to find spaces with Eden Jacobsen firing wide and Holly Daugirda having a try blocked by a USC defender. Goalkeeper Kaylie Collins finally made her first save in the 35th minute when she held on to another Van der Veen free kick.
Nelson stood tall in the waning moments of the half, stopping DeMelo and Erika Okuma's long blast.
In the second half, it was USC piling on the pressure, as DeMelo, Alex Anthony and Jalen Woodward were all stymied by Nelson. Utah's best chance of the period came in the 66th minute when Natalie Vukic had her drive held by Collins.
The Trojans continued to prod the Utah defense as Nicole Molen tried Nelson. However, the sophomore keeper stayed strong and with the help of her defenders blocking three attempts in the penalty area, kept the No. 10 team in the nation at bay.
DeMelo continued to be a thorn in Utah's side, hitting the post in the 78th minute. It was the best chance for either side until she took the penalty kick 10 minutes later.
After an uneventful first overtime period, Tavia Leachman headed a corner wide upon her return in the second stanza. A Skolmoski header went right into the hands of Collins and another Leachman attempt off a corner was also held by the USC keeper. Utah's last gasp was a Jacobsen try that sailed wide while Nelson had to make one final stop, denying Anthony with a minute to go.