Fresh off upsetting second-seed Rice, seventh-seed UTEP will square off against host and sixth-seed Charlotte in the semifinals of the 2016 Conference USA Women’s Soccer Championships at 5 p.m. today.
The Miners (13-6-2) knocked off the Owls, 1-0, behind Jeanna Mullen’s goal (assisted by Aleah Davis) and seven saves from Alyssa Palacios. The homestanding 49ers (9-8-2) battled to a 1-1 draw with #3 WKU (12-7) before advancing thanks to a 4-1 cushion on penalty kicks.
For the second time in the past three years and the fifth occasion overall, Charlotte will serve as the host for the Conference USA women’s soccer championships. The 49ers were a full but non-football member from 1995-2005 before rejoining the league in 2013. Top seed North Texas (15-4-1), opened the tournament with a thrilling 2-1 overtime victory against #8 Old Dominion (7-12).
The Mean Green will lock up with #4 Florida Atlantic (11-7-2), which cruised past #5 Louisiana Tech (14-6-1), 3-0. The Miners (13-6-2) halted Rice’s (11-5-1) seven-game winning streak, 1-0. The 49ers (9-8-2) followed suit with their own upset, advancing past #3 WKU (12-7) on penalty kicks.
Lucky Number Seven
The last time UTEP entered the Conference USA Championships as a seven seed was in 2011. The Orange and Blue put together a magical run to earn runner-up honors at the event, falling in double overtime against nationally-ranked (#4/6) and host and undefeated Memphis, 2-1, on Nov. 5. Including the win to start this year’s tournament, UTEP is now 2-1-1 all time at the C-USA tourney when playing as a #7 seed.
Momentum For The Miners
UTEP entered the C-USA Championships with good momentum, having downed Southern Miss, 5-0, on a festive “Senior Night” win on Oct. 28. The 5-0 win was the biggest via shutout in a league contest since a 6-0 rout at Houston on Nov. 2, 2007. UTEP built on that by upsetting Rice, 1-0, on Nov. 2. The Owls had been riding the longest active winning streak within C-USA at seven games.
UTEP soccer midfielder Aleah Davis (All C-USA first team), goalkeeper Alyssa Palacios (All C-USA third team) and defender Lauren Crenshaw (C-USA All-Freshman team) have reaped honors from Conference USA. Voting was conducted among C-USA’s 14 women’s soccer head coaches. Bri Barreiro (first team) and Davis (second team) were also voted to the 2016 Conference USA InTouch Credit Union Women’s Soccer All-Academic Teams.
More On The C-USA Honors
Aleah Davis is initial Miner in program history to secure three All-League first-team honors (2014, 2015 and 2016). She also joins former UTEP standouts Ja’net Esparza (1996-99) and Kaletia Roberts (2002-05) as the lone individuals at the school to be a four-time All-Conference performer. Alyssa Palacios, who was an All-Freshman team honoree in 2015, becomes the fifth Miner goalkeeper in program history to be recognized with All-League status. Sarah Dilling (2014, first team), Brittany Popoff (2005, second team), Katie Gilmore (2000, second team) and Amanda Smith (1999, second team) also were so honored.
Thanks to Lauren Crenshaw, the Miners have now placed an individual on the All-Freshman team in four straight years. Overall she is the 10th individual to do so, joining Palacios (2015), Sydney Rapp (2014), Davis (2013), Dilling (2011), Azia Nicholson (2010), Skye Schultz (2009), Lauren Hamson (2007), and Anoop Josan and Tameka Sumter (2007).
Charlotte (9-8-2) is led by Conference USA Offensive Player of the Year Martha Thomas, who led the league with 26 points and a career-high eight assists during the regular season. Thomas added nine goals to set the tone for her squad. She’s buoyed by C-USA Freshman of the Year Megan Greene, who also put away nine shots during the regular season on the way to also earning a spot on the All C-USA second team.
The 49ers also placed Katie O’Neill (second team) and Riley Orr (third team) on the All-League squads. Charlotte plays an exciting style of soccer with 37 goals scored and 31 goals allowed. It has been dominant at home, sporting a 7-1-1 mark on the year. The lone loss, though, came at the hands of the Miners, 4-3, on Sept. 30.
Series History With Charlotte
Friday’s match at Charlotte is the fourth between the programs, with the series tied at 1-1-1. The Miners won an incredibly entertaining match at Charlotte, 4-3, on Sept. 30 during the regular season. This will be the first meeting between the squads during the C-USA Tournament.
UTEP has recorded a school-record tying 11 shutouts on the year. The Miners also blanked 11 foes during the 2006 season.
Other Stats Of The Season
The Miners’ 13 wins on the year are the most since 2009 and tie as fourth on the single-season charts. The 38 assists check in tied for seventh while the 18 goals allowed is currently the second fewest in a single campaign. Alyssa Palacios’s 128 saves are the second most in a single season; former Miner great Amanda Smith holds the standard at 133 (1998). Palacios is also tied for second for most wins by an individual GK at 13. Aleah Davis’s five game-winning goals rates tied for third in UTEP annals.
Defense Does It
UTEP is among the C-USA and national leaders for save percentage (.881-first C-USA/seventh nation)-aided by two team saves- goals against average (0.83-third C-USA/58th nation), shutouts (11-tied first C-USA) and shutout percentage (.524-third C-USA/36th nation).
Palacios Up To The Task
Sophomore Alyssa Palacios has emerged as an elite keeper, with simply sensational numbers. She tops C-USA and is among the nation’s leaders for GK minutes played (1925:03-first nation), total saves (128-second nation), save percentage (.877-10th nation) saves per game (6.10-28th nation).
Palacios has also been credited with nine individual shutouts (second C-USA/16th nation) while playing the majority of minutes in two shared shutouts. She has made at least seven saves in 11 contests, including turning away all seven shots on goal in the 1-0 victory against Rice in the C-USA Quarterfinals.
More Miners In The Rankings
Senior Aleah Davis paces the Miners in assists (eight-tied first C-USA/31st nation) and game-winning goals (five-first C-USA/16th nation). She shares the team lead with Bri Thomas in points (20-seventh C-USA/133rd nation) while rating second in goals (tied 13th C-USA) and total shots (45-ninth C-USA). Top scoring threat Bri Thomas has been relentless in her attack. She leads the team in goals (eight-tied seventh C-USA/133rd nation) and total shots (48-seventh C-USA).
No Rest For Ross
For the second year in a row, UTEP sophomore sweeper Payton Ross has proved to have unbelievable endurance. Last season she became the first field player since at least 2002 (prior stats are incomplete with minutes played) to play every minute of every match on the campaign. She has continued the trend in 2016; Ross has been on the pitch for all 1948:28 minutes of action.
UTEP has done most its damage in the second half of contests this year. The Miners have tallied 22 of their 35 goals on the year in the second half. Overall UTEP has a +17 goal margin (35-18); it is +3 (13-10) in the first half and at +15 (22-7) 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 38 assists (second C-USA/30th nation) on its 35 total goals (fifth C-USA/51st nation) this year. 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 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. UTEP has also earned placement in the NSCAA Central Region Poll this year. It is no stranger to that type or recognition, having done been regionally ranked for at least one week in 11 of the past 13 campaigns.
Winning Ways On Road Continue
The Miners recorded their school-record winning road record by forging a mark of 5-3-2 on the road in 2016. UTEP now stands 21-10-5 on the road since the streak started in 2013. It will have a chance to build on those numbers by playing at Charlotte Friday.
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 239-155-30, including 13-6-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 197-107-23 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).