UTEP Soccer Set For Important Road Matches
Oct. 18, 2012
EL PASO, Texas - The UTEP soccer team will play at Rice (6 p.m. MT) and Houston (12 p.m. MT) in two crucial road contests this weekend.
The Miners (10-7, 3-5 C-USA) have battled through a myriad of challenges, most notably four straight road matches to start league play and injuries to several key players, to put themselves in position of qualifying for the 2012 Conference USA Championships.
"This is a huge road weekend and the most important week in our season," UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. "We have to play our very best soccer this week, and will be extremely challenged. Rice has an excellent team that gives up very few goals. We're tied with Houston in the standings so that game is extremely crucial. The team and staff must bring their best games of the season this weekend to the city of Houston."
UTEP is 3-1-0 over its past four matches, even though it remains without the services of some big-time players. Lauren Katada, who had five goals and five assists last year, played in two games this season before being sidelined with an injury. Mackenzie German (4 G, 1 A, 9 GP) hasn't played since the start of league play while Schultz (1 G, 4 A, 12 GP) has missed the past five tilts. Defender Gino Soto has missed two games and freshman Lauren Peck has competed in eight of the 15 tilts. Highly-touted freshman Aleah Davis has yet to see action this year.
The Orange and Blue have overcome the loss of those individuals through a complete team effort across the board. Senior Tess Hall, who is among the league leaders for assists (nine, first), goals (eight, tied fourth) and points (25, second), has been the catalyst. Her efforts have also allowed her to dent the national rankings, checking in 26th in helpers and 41st in points.
Juniors Azia Nicholson (six), Jade Babcock (four) and Tori Martyn (three) and senior Brittany Kindzierski (three) have also contributed multiple goals to help fuel the third-ranked attack (1.82 goals per game) in the league. Babcock and Martyn have also pitched in four assists while Nicholson and Tayler O'Hayre have notched three each.
The defense has come on strong, with the past three teams all being held to just one goal. Overall foes have been held to 1.47 goals per game and just 4.5 shots on goal a contest. Sophomore netminder Sarah Dilling has played every minute of every match in the net, tallying 53 saves.
Rice was 3-4-2 in non-conference play but it has been on a tear since initiating league action. The Owls are 6-1-1 in league play, aided by a +8 goal differential (14-6). Overall on the year Rice has scored 22 goals (1.29 gpg). Holly Hargreaves (nine) and Lauren Hughes (eight) have fueled those efforts, with no other Owl producing more than two tallies.
Amy Czyz has led the Owls' defense, yielding just 17 goals in 1518:59 minutes of action over 17 contests. She has turned away 78 shots for a save percentage of .821.
Houston is playing its best soccer of the season, with a mark of 2-0-1 in the past three tilts. UH sports a balanced look on offense with Jasmine Martinez (five), Katelyn Rhodes (three), Kayla Walker (three) and Alexis Weaver (two) all finding the back of the net on multiple occasions. Four different players have posted two assists.
While Houston has conceded only 1.40 goals per game, there are some concerns. It has been outshot 195-135, including 95-70 in shots on goals. Additionally, opponents have doubled UH up on corner kicks (68-34).
After the road matches, the Miners will be home for their regular-season finale when they play host to Colorado College at 7 p.m. MT Friday, Oct. 26.