UTEP To Battle No. 4 Memphis In 2011 C-USA Championship Contest

Nov. 5, 2011

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UTEP To Battle No. 4 Memphis In 2011 C-USA Championship Contest

The seventh-seeded UTEP soccer team will square off against top-seed and No. 4 nationally Memphis in championship contest of the 2011 Conference USA Tournament at 12 p.m. MST Sunday. The match will be carried live nationally on the CBS Sports Network. The Miners (11-7-4) toppled second-seed Colorado College, 2-1, in the quarterfinals on Nov. 2, before advancing into the finals on penalty kicks (0-0;3-1) over Rice on Nov. 4. The homestanding and undefeated Tigers (20-0-1) rallied for 2-1 OT triumph against Tulsa in the quarterfinals on Nov. 2, before cruising past fifth-seeded East Carolina, 3-0, on Nov. 4.

Third Title Tilt Appearance Under Cross

UTEP will be making its first appearance in a conference championship game since 2005 and third overall during the Kevin Cross era. The Miners UTEP played for a Western Athletic Conference title in 2002 and vied for a C-USA crown in 2005. UTEP was derailed by Rice, 3-0, on Nov. 6, 2005 while being upended by SMU, 3-1, on Nov. 9, 2002, when both squads were members of the WAC.

Memphis Has Been Here Before

For the fifth straight season, No. 4 Memphis will be appearing in the C-USA Championship match. The Tigers won the tournament championship in each of the prior four years. One part of history working against the U of M, though, is the fact that a host institution has not claimed the league’s postseason title since 2005.?@

Overview On UTEP

UTEP sports an overall record of 11-7-4 on the year, which ensures it of its program-best 10th straight winning season. The Miners have been solid in all areas, with a +13 (40-27) goal differential. It has been a balanced approach on offense, with seven different individuals putting away at least four chances. Junior Brittany Kindzierski leads the way with eight strikes. Senior and all-league member, Katie Dorman has finished seven shots, including both of the Miners’ goals in the C-USA tourney. Other threats include all-conference honoree Tess Hall (six goals, four assists), Lauren Katada (five goals, five assists), all C-USA member Azia Nicholson (four goals, three assists) and freshmen Mackenzie German (four goals, two assists) and Amanda Pak (four goals). At the other end of the pitch, all-freshman team member and GK Sarah Dilling has anchored the defensive efforts. She sports a GAA of 1.27 to go along with a save percentage of .795. At the C-USA tourney Dilling has turned away 13 of 14 shots faced while also making saves on three of four penalty kick tries by Rice. Staying busy is nothing new for Dilling, who has made at least five saves in 13 matches while recording four or more stops 15 times.

The Rundown On No. 4 Memphis

No. 4 Memphis has enjoyed a season for the ages, sporting a mark of 20-0-1 heading into the title tilt of the 2011 C-USA Championship. The 20 triumphs equal the C-USA single-season record, which was also achieved by UTEP in 2005 (20-4-1) and Marquette in 2000 (20-3-1). The Tigers have been dominant at both ends of the pitch, evidenced by a +43 (53-10) goal differential. Leading the attack for the U of M has been 2011 C-USA Player of the Year, Christabel Oduro (11 goals), in addition to All-Freshman team member Natalia Gomez-Junco (eight goals). First-team All C-USA honoree Lizzy Simonin has pitched in six goals from the back line with Rasheeda Ansari also putting away six chances. The defense has been anchored by Simonin, the Defensive Player of the Year, and first-squad all-league honoree GK Elise Kuhar-Pitters. Kuhar-Pitters has been nearly flawless, with a .875 save percentage, aided by a single-season school record 14 blankings.

Magic Of The Seven Seed

Since the realignment of Conference USA in 2005, there has been only one time in which a top-three seed did not win the league’s pinnacle event. That came at that 2006 championship when seventh-seeded UAB (also seed of UTEP in 2011) overcame the odds to claim the crown. Just like UTEP, the Blazers used a 2-1 victory in the quarterfinals before relying upon penalty kicks to resolve the outcome after a scoreless 110 minutes in their semifinal match-up.

Neutral No More

UTEP hadn’t played a neutral-site contest prior to the start of the tournament, and it handled the situation well by sporting a mark of 1-0-1 while advancing to the finals. While the site and venue remain the same, the match-up against No. 4 Memphis is officially a road contest for the Orange and Blue, due to the Tigers serving as the host institution.

First-Half Success

UTEP has been at its best during the opening period in 2011, outscoring the opposition by a count of 22-1. The Miners have also earned 51 corner kicks to 43 by its foes in first stanza. In comparison, UTEP is +3 on goals (18-15) and -16 (51-67) on CKs during the second half of games on the campaign.

Hall Has Been Instrumental To Team Success

Junior Tess Hall has been tied into the overall team success of the Miners in 2011. UTEP sports a mark of 9-3-4 on the year when she plays, while standing just 2-4-0 in the six matches she missed due to injury

Youth Served

Making the accomplishments of this year’s team even more impressive is the fact that it has been relying heavily upon the play of underclasswomen. Thirteen individuals have started at least 10 matches, with nine of them being either freshmen or sophomores.

Ample Success Under Cross

UTEP soccer has been the epitome of success during the Kevin Cross era, with a school-record 10 straight winning seasons. From 2002 through the start of the 2011 season, the Miners compiled 125 victories to rate tied for 18th nationally in that time frame. A high-octane offense has been a staple throughout the period (2002 through 2010), with UTEP producing 472 goals in that sequence to check in with the eighth-highest total nationally.?@



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