Miners Find Redemption In 2013
Nov. 7, 2013
From the opening whistle in August to the final signal of an overtime goal that ended UTEP’s season in the quarterfinals of the Conference USA Championships, there was a noticeable sense of urgency for the Miner soccer program in 2013.
UTEP went 12-6-3, including 5-3-2 within C-USA play, to finish third out of 16 teams in the revamped league, while playing with a passion and purpose every time out.
“UTEP Soccer had a season to be very proud of in 2013,” Cross said. “We finished in third place out of 16 teams, and were the only team to beat the conference champion. We felt we could have gone further in the conference tournament, but had some bad luck in that game. 12-6-3 is a great record, and it is the 12th year in a row that we achieved a winning season.
“Five of our losses this year were by one goal, and two of those were in over-time. I am very appreciative of the team’s efforts, and could not be prouder to be the team’s coach. Every single game we left it all out on the field, which is all that we ask of our team. We will honor the legacy the five great seniors have left behind.”
In order to understand where the drive came from that powered UTEP in 2012, it’s necessary to drudge up the unpleasant memories of the 2012 campaign.
While UTEP did finish at 10-10-0, it was the outcome in C-USA play that resulted in a lasting sting. A combination of injuries to key contributors and an inability to get results on the road led to an unexpected outcome when the dust had settled.
The Miners, 3-8-0 in C-USA play, fell short of qualifying for the league’s pinnacle event. Adding salt to the wound was the fact that UTEP was the host institution for the tournament, and the players were relegated to serving as ball shaggers in the event instead of playing for a possible bid to the NCAA Tournament.
It was a humbling experience for the staff and players alike, but in the very midst of the struggles a choice was made. Rather than let the year be one of waste, UTEP head coach Kevin Cross and company decided to convert it into fuel for their fire for the 2013 season.
They spent the offseason attacking their weaknesses, and every practice, workout and activity was designed with the intent on UTEP having a shot at redemption.
The first target was improved success on the road, with the squad working with assistant coach Heather Clark to develop a new mindset away from home. UTEP, which was a combined 7-20-1 in hostile territory from 2010-12, rolled to a mark of 6-2-1 on the road in 2013. It set a school standard for longest winning streak on the road (four) in addition to matching the 2005 NCAA Tournament team’s standard for lengthiest undefeated stretch at six (4-0-2) away from home.
Another area of emphasis was playing well in close games, something that had eluded UTEP in recent years. The Miners made that shortcoming a distant memory by going 9-5-0 in goals decided by one goal. The nine wins tied the 2005 team for most such victories in school history. The 14 contests of that nature also matched the most in a single season in program annals, with the 2008 squad (8-6) also doing so.
UTEP’s drive and desire to never quit also resulted in them setting the school record for overtime games at seven. Cross’ charges compiled a mark of 2-2-3 in the situation to establish a program standard for points earned in overtime contests in a single campaign at seven.
More than anything else, though, the focus for the 2013 season was to find success in league play. UTEP enjoyed a run of eight straight years (2002-2009) with a record or .500 or better in conference action, before that streak was snapped in 2010 (4-7-0) and was followed by an effort of 4-5-2 in 2011 & the aforementioned 3-8-0 in 2012.
The biggest factor in that dropoff was the Orange and Blue’s results on the road, where they were a combined 1-15-0 in league play during those three years. Instead of letting those past outcomes saddle them with unnecessary pressure in 2013, UTEP simply used that as more motivation
The Miners battled to a very respectable mark of 2-2-1 on the road in C-USA contests, with both victories coming by one goal. That effort, combined with the Orange and Blue defending University Field to the tune of 3-1-1, resulted in a overall record of 5-3-2 in the revamped Conference USA.
UTEP’s 17 points placed third out of 16 total schools in the league, earning it a first-round bye for the C-USA championship. While each victory was sweet, there were three in particular that stood out. The Miners, who were 2-2-2 through six league games and in a fight to secure a spot in the C-USA Championships, dug deep to pull out a 1-0 victory at 2012 C-USA tournament runner-up Tulsa on Oct. 20.
UTEP then returned home to topple UTSA, 2-0, on “Senior Night” on Oct. 25, before posting a come-from-behind 2-1 triumph against eventual C-USA regular-season & tournament champion Colorado College on Oct. 27. The three-game winning streak when the season was on the line vaulted UTEP up in the standings and also ensured a lasting, positive memory for the year.
In the C-USA quarterfinals the Miners battled East Carolina to a scoreless 90 minutes before ultimately succumbing on a bad-luck goal in OT on Nov. 6, to conclude the campaign at 12-6-3. The six setbacks tied as the fourth-fewest sum since the program was launched in 1996 while its winning percentage of .643 was the best since 2009 & tied as the seventh-highest in 18 years of soccer at the school.
Four different Miners (Jade Babcock, Aleah Davis, Tori Martyn & Azia Nicholson), the second most in a single season in program history earned all-league accolades & UTEP also picked up votes in the NSCAA Central Region Poll for a tenth straight year.
The future is bright, with more than 15 letterwinners set to return next year, along with the addition of an anticipated high-level recruiting class.