PROVO, Utah -- San Diego scored early and Amber Michel made a career-high 11 saves to lead the Toreros to a conference-opening 2-1 victory at BYU on Friday night.
That was all USD needed.
The Toreros turned to its defense and Michel in goal to secure the win. Michel's 11 stops eclipse her previous career high of 10, set earlier this season against Texas A&M on Aug. 20.
USD's backline -- consisting primarily of Courtney Coate, Natalie Copenhaver, Abby King, Tara Meier and Molly Melanson -- played well throughout the match. The group limited the Cougars (3-5-3, 0-1 WCC) primarily to shots outside the box and away from the center of the goal.
Meier had a particularly impressive game in the centerback position, shutting down BYU's strikers and blocking multiple shots.
Highlights of San Diego's victory at BYU. (via BYUtv)
It was a team defensive effort with the midfield chipping in with clutch plays. Mina Ghazizadeh provided the defensive highlight of the game for the midfielders in the 48th minute when a Cougars header off a corner kick beat Michel and was en route to the right side netting. Ghazizadeh was standing on the post and headed the ball off the goal line and away from danger.
Summer Mason was a nuisance for BYU's defense all night, constantly pressuring the backline and getting behind the defense to lead the Toreros attack. The combination of Mason and Dantu up top helped alleviate the pressure on USD's defense and limited the Cougars ability to push extra players forward.
The Toreros struck early in the fifth minute when Meier sent in a terrific corner kick cross that found the head of Dantu. She flicked a glancing header on frame past the Cougars goalkeeper, Hannah Clark, and off a BYU defender into the back of the net. It was Dantu's second goal of the season.
The Cougars increased its offensive pressure during the next 15 minutes spending extended time in the Toreros defensive zone. However, the Toreros defense weathered the pressure and eventually drew a foul on a counterattack near the left corner of BYU's penalty box.
Copenhaver sent a cross into the box near the penalty spot that bounced around among multiple players. Coate won the battle and was able to send a shot to the back of the left corner of the net to put USD up, 2-0. It was the first goal of Coate's collegiate career.
It was the Toreros first victory against BYU since Oct. 29, 2011, and snaps a five-game losing streak against the Cougars. USD improved to 3-0 in games it holds a lead at halftime. The victory is the first WCC win for first-year head coach, Louise Lieberman.
The Toreros will look to continue its momentum next weekend when it plays host to Saint Mary's on Thursday at 7 p.m. (PT) and Pacific on Saturday at 7 p.m.
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