The UTEP soccer team will put its two-game winning streak on the line when it plays at Marshall at 5 p.m. MDT Thursday. It is the final league road game for the Miners (11-4-2, 4-3-0 Conference USA) and the Thundering Herd (4-7-4, 2-4-2 Conference USA) will be highly motivated with the C-USA slate winding down.
“We have a big test ahead facing the 2015 Conference USA runner-ups, Marshall, on the road,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “Marshall has a very explosive attack, and we will have to be very focused in the game. The key is that we must bring our top game. When we do, good things will happen for us.”
Unique Scheduling Continues
For the second straight week, the Miners will have a split schedule (one road game, one road). UTEP handled the unique circumstances extremely well last week, knocking off UTSA, 3-2, on Oct. 14 before emerging victorious at Middle Tennessee, 4-1, on Oct. 16. UTEP is the only team in Conference USA to have multiple split weekends on the docket for league play.
This week it’s reversed, with a road match at Marshall (5 p.m. MDT Thursday) and a home contest vs. Florida Atlantic (12 p.m. MDT Sunday).
It’s Been A While
Prior to last week, the Miners hadn’t experienced a split weekend in league play since they were members of the Western Athletic Conference. UTEP did so both in 2000 (home Rice-Oct. 25, at Tulsa-Oct 27) and also in 2002 (home SMU-Sept. 29, at TCU, Oct. 1).
Brief Rundown On The C-USA Standings
UTEP enters Thursday’s match-up at 4-3 in Conference USA play to sit alone in sixth place in the league with 12 points. WKU is in first (6-2, 18 points) while Charlotte (5-1-1, 16 points) and Florida Atlantic (5-2-1, 16 points) are tied for second. North Texas (5-1, 15 points) and Rice (5-2, 15 points) are tied for fourth followed by the Miners.
Louisiana Tech (3-3, nine points), Old Dominion (3-3, nine points) and UTSA (3-4, nine points) are tied for seventh. Marshall (2-4-2, eight points) is alone in 10th with Middle Tennessee (2-6, six points), FIU (1-4-2, five points), Southern Miss (1-5-1, four points) and UAB (1-6-1, four points) rounding out the standings. The top eight finishers (out of the 14 C-USA programs) will qualify for the 2016 Conference USA Championships (Nov. 2-6) in Charlotte, N.C.
Marshall is 4-7-4 overall, including 2-4-1 in Conference USA action. The Thundering Herd are 2-2-1 at home on the year but just 1-2 within C-USA play in Huntington. After a three-game undefeated streak (2-0-1), Marshall is 0-2-1) in its last three contests. MU’s offense has been a three-headed monster, with Jordan Sackaris (seven goals-tied fifth Conference USA), Sydney Arnold (four goals) and Shontelle Smith (four goals) accounting for 15 of the 18 tallies on the season.
Arnold has almost half (six of 14) of the squad’s assists to place second in the league and 54th nationally. While the Thundering Herd have a -5 goal differential (18-23), they have slight advantages in both shots (190-183) and shots on goal (89-87).
Series History With Marshall
UTEP is 5-2-2 all-time against Marshall, with ties coming in both 2014 and 2015. When playing in Huntington, the Thundering Herd have a slight edge with a 2-1-1 record.
Winning Ways On Road Continue
The Miners are 21-9-5 on the road since 2013, including a mark of 5-2-2 this year. That effort has secured UTEP its school-record fourth straight year with a winning road record. The match-up against Marshall marks the final road contest of the regular season.
UTEP has recorded nine shutouts on the year. That figure rates tied for second on the program’s single-season records. The school standard (11) was set in 2006 while the 2014 squad also registered nine shutouts.
Defense Does It
UTEP has recorded nearly as many shutouts (nine) than goals allowed (12) on the year. UTEP is among the C-USA and national leaders for save percentage (.876-first C-USA/ninth nation)-aided by two team saves- goals against average (0.85-second C-USA/67th nation) and shutout percentage (.529- first C-USA/33rd nation)
Palacios Up To The Task
Sophomore GK Alyssa Palacios has emerged as an elite keeper, with simply sensational numbers. She is among the Conference USA and nation’s leaders in save percentage (.874- first C-USA/15th nation), total saves (104-first C-USA/fourth nation), GK minutes played (1579:43-first C-USA/sixth nation) and goals against average (0.72-third C-USA/66th nation). She has made at least seven saves in nine contests, including a career-high tying 10 vs. Rice on Oct. 9.
Tightening Things Up
For the first time since a six-game stretch (final five non-conference, first C-USA), Miner netminder Alyssa Palacios has faced 15 or fewer shots in consecutive contests. The Miners allowed 15 shots vs. UTSA (10/14) and 12 at Middle Tennessee (10/16).
Balanced Attack In League Play
Nine Miners have helped account for 13 goals during Conference USA play. Kennadie Chaudhary (three goals), Jeanna Mullen and Bri Barreiro (two goals) have multiple tallies while Danielle Carreon, Yesenia Contreras, Lauren Crenshaw, Aleah Davis, Nicole Lindsay and Bri Thomas all have one goal in league action. Overall Thomas still leads with six goals (tied ninth C-USA) while Davis closely follows with five (tied 11th C-USA). Davis has shown a flair for the dramatic with four game-winning goals (first C-USA/22nd nation).
UTEP has done most its damage in the second half of contests this year. The Miners have tallied 19 of their 29 goals on the year in the second half. Overall UTEP has a +14 goal margin (29-15), with a +3 standing (10-7) in the first half and a +12 advantage (19-7) over the final 45 minutes. UTEP is -1 (0-1) in overtime (goal by UAB in double overtime).
Sharing Is Caring
UTEP has been credited with 32 assists (eighth C-USA/63rd nation) on its 29 total goals (eighth C-USA/111th nation) this year. Aleah Davis keys the efforts (seven-tied second C-USA/27th nation) while Kennadie Chaudhary and Bri Thomas are tied for second on the team at four (tied 11th C-USA). Bri Barreiro, Lauren Crenshaw and Nicole Lindsay share fourth on the squad with three helpers while Devyn Hunley, Jenna Mullen, Carleigh Simmons and Natalie Valentine each have two assists. Yesenia Contreras and Aylin Villalobos both have one helper apiece. The last time the Orange and Blue concluded a campaign with more assists than goals was in 2014 (34 assists, 29 goals). The only other such occurrence at UTEP was in 2008 (39 assists, 35 goals).
UTEP has claimed three Conference USA Players of the Week in 2016, with sophomore Alyssa Palacios netting the C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week twice (Sept. 6 and Sept. 19) and freshman Lauren Crenshaw securing the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 6). Palacios is the first Miner GK to earn multiple weekly honors from the league office since Chandra Morden did so in 2010.
UTEP has recently been recognized by the NSCAA for its performance in the classroom during the ’15-16 scholastic year. The Miners sported a 3.60 GPA, which led Conference USA, and as result have claimed the NSCAA Team Academic Award. It is the sixth straight year that the Miners have been so distinguished.
Getting It Done Out Of Conference
UTEP compiled a mark of 7-1-2 during non-conference action to improve to 106-29-9 before league play since the start of the 2002 season. The Miners have now posted a winning record in non-conference action for 15 straight seasons.
The Basic Facts
UTEP is in its 21st season as a program, boasting an all-time record of 237-153-30, including 11-4-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 195-105-23 in that timeframe. He is assisted by two former Miners (Heather Clark and Jessie Pettit). UTEP returned 12 letter winners, including nine starters, from last year’s team (11-7-2, 4-4-2 C-USA).