The UTEP soccer team (2-5) will open up Conference USA action with two games this week.
The Miners will play host to No. 20 Rice (6-1-1) at University Field at 7 p.m. MT Thursday before wrapping up the week at (RV) North Texas (5-1-2) at 12 p.m. MT Sunday. Both the Owls and the Mean Green have just one loss on the season, and they have a combined record of 11-2-3 on the year.
The Miners will be looking for their first win against a ranked opponent since toppling No. 22 Memphis, 4-1, on Oct. 7, 2012.
“We had a tough nonconference (schedule) that has led us to this point,” UTEP head coach Kathryn Balogun said. “I think we’re really well prepared to get into a really tough start to Conference USA play with Rice now sitting at No. 20 and North Texas receiving votes. Both will be very competitive games this weekend that we need to bring our ‘A’ game to.”
Turning The Corner
After an 0-4 start to the season, with all four losses by one goal, the Miners won two of their final three contests in nonconference play to head into C-USA action at 2-5 overall. Both triumphs were of the one-goal variety. UTEP picked up its first victory of the year against UIW on Sept. 3 before most recently rallying past I-10 rival NM State, 2-1, for an overtime win on Sept. 9.
Changing The Narrative
After losing two games earlier on the year in which it was tied with 15 minutes remaining in regulation, UTEP changed the narrative against NM State on Sept. 9. The Miners trailed ,1-0, 10 minutes into the contest before finding the equalizer from Jackie Soto in the 73rd minute. Soto then completed the comeback with the golden goal five minutes into overtime.
Can’t Get Anything Past Mariah
Mariah Scott has played in three matches this year, logging a total of 180 minutes of action. She has faced 10 shots on goal, turning away all of them for a flawless 0.00 goals against average. Overall her 10 saves rank second on the team behind true freshman Luisa Palmen. Two-year starter Emily Parrott has also seen action, contributing a pair of stops.
Senior Jackie Soto (three goals) and junior Jojo Ngongo (two goals) both have multiple tallies on the season. Vic Bohdan and Sheyliene Patolo have also scored a goal on the year. Bohdan, Fisher and Molly Sutherland share the team lead with two assists, while five others have one helper. Bohdan paces the Orange and Blue for both shots (nine) and shots on goal (five).
Twenty five different Miners have earned playing time this season, with 15 of them appearing in all seven matches. There have also been 17 Miners to secure at least one start to this point.
The 411 On No. 20 Rice
No. 20 Rice returned nine starters from a squad that won C-USA and advanced to the NCAA “Sweet Sixteen” during the Covid-affected 2020-21 season. This year the Owls are off to a 6-1-1 start, with their lone loss coming to SMU, 1-0, on Sept. 12.
Rice has outshot opponents, 142-111, including 77-45 for shots on goal. It has a +9 (14-5) goal differential. Delaney Schultz paces the attack with five goals, while three others have multiple tallies. Bella Killgore has started all eight matches in net, tallying 39 saves and posting three clean sheets.
UTEP is locking up against Rice in El Paso for the first time since 2016, and it is looking to improve on its 7-13-2 all-time mark against the Owls. Most recently Rice toppled the Orange and Blue, 2-0, on April 8, 2021, during the Covid-affected 2020-21 season.
The 411 On (RV North Texas)
(RV) North Texas is 5-1-2 on the season, including 2-1 at home. It is riding a three-match unbeaten streak, including a 2-2 tie at Big 12 foe Oklahoma on Sept. 5. The Mean Green have outscored opponents, 20-5, while outshooting them, 164-53, including 88-22 for shots on goal. Allie Byrd paces the high-octane attack with five goals, followed by Madi Drenowatz (four goals). Vanderbilt transfer Sarah Fuller has started all eight matches, posting five shutouts.
UTEP will be in search of its second victory against North Texas, with the Mean Green holding a 7-1-1 mark against the Miners. Last year the Orange and Blue clawed back to forge a 1-1 tie with UNT despite playing a significant portion of the match with 10 players.
Living On The Road
For the second straight season, UTEP will have more road games than home match-ups. Overall this year the Miners will play 10 contests outside of El Paso (nine road, one neutral) compared to six home tilts, marking the second straight year that UTEP will have more road games than home match-ups during the regular season.
Quick Rundown On UTEP
UTEP returned 23 letter winners from last year’s team (3-6-2, 2-3-1 C-USA), including nine starters. The Miners also added six newcomers. The Orange and Blue are under the direction of third-year head coach Kathryn Balogun, who sports a mark of 15-18-5 in the Sun City, including 2-5 this year.
Tickets for the match against Rice are $8 and can be purchased through the Eisenberg Family Ticket Office by calling (915) 747-UTEP, emailing [email protected], going online or in person at 201 Glory Road (Brumbelow Building, UTEP campus) Monday thru Friday from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m.
Group tickets are also available for $5 (minimum of 10 tickets).