UTEP will lock up with streaking Rice in the quarterfinals of the 2016 Conference USA Women’s Soccer Championships at 2:30 p.m. MDT (4:30 p.m. ET) Wednesday at Transamerica Field on the campus of Charlotte.
The seventh-seeded Miners (12-6-2) have a tremendous opportunity to make a statement by facing the second-seeded Owls (11-4-1), who boast the league’s longest active winning streak (seven). The victor will advance to either #3 WKU (12-6) or #6 and host Charlotte (9-8-1) in the semifinals at 5 p.m. MDT (7 p.m. ET) Friday.
“We are very excited to be participating in the Conference USA Tournament in Charlotte this week,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “It is tough to qualify when only eight teams out of 14 make the tournament and there is so much parity in the league. We had a very challenging travel schedule this season which made this even more challenging. Rice is one of the best teams in Conference USA as they have won seven straight. They are very well coached and play great team soccer. We are very excited for this rematch opportunity. We know that when we play our best soccer like we did on senior night that we can beat anyone in the conference. We appreciate everyone’s support of UTEP Soccer in 2016.”
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 (14-4-1) opens the tournament vs. #8 Old Dominion (7-11) with the winner advancing to the semifinals to face either #4 Florida Atlantic (10-7-2) or #5 LA Tech (14-5-1). The bottom portion of the bracket features the Miners (12-6-2) vs. the Owls (11-4-1) and #3 WKU (12-6) vs. #6 and host Charlotte (9-8-1).
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.
Momentum For The Miners
UTEP enters 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 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.
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).
Rice (11-4-2) is the hottest team in Conference USA, as it enters the league’s pinnacle event riding a seven-game winning streak. It has outscored foes, 14-3, in the stretch which has helped contribute to its overall +16 goal differential (33-17). The Owls have a balanced attack with nine different players having scored at least twice. Rice placed four players on the 2016 All C-USA teams, with Nia Stallings, Samantha Chaiken and Jenny Fichera earning first-team accolades and Jasmine Isokpunwu landing on the second team. Chaiken was the 2016 C-USA Midfielder of the Year while Fichera garnered the Defensive Player of the Year.
Series History With Rice
Rice has an 11-6-2 advantage in the all-time series with UTEP, including a 3-0 win in El Paso earlier this year (Oct. 9). The Miners are 1-1-1 vs. the Owls when locking up in the league tournament, with the most-recent meeting coming in 2011. That year the two squads battled to a scoreless draw before the Orange and Blue advanced to the finals with a 3-1 edge in penalty kicks.
UTEP has recorded 10 shutouts on the year. That figure rates second on the program’s single-season records, trailing only the 2006 squad (11 shutouts).
Defense Does It
UTEP is among the C-USA and national leaders for save percentage (.875-first C-USA/seventh nation)-aided by two team saves- goals against average (0.90-third C-USA/67th nation), shutouts (10-tied first C-USA) and shutout percentage (.500-third C-USA/37th 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 save percentage (.871-15th nation), total saves (121-third nation), saves per game (6.05-30th nation) and GK minutes played (1835:03-10th nation). She has recorded at least seven saves in 10 contests, including a career-high tying 10 vs. Rice on Oct. 9.Palacios has been credited with eight individual shutouts (third C-USA) while also playing the majority of minutes in two shared shutouts.
More Miners In The Rankings
Senior Aleah Davis paces the Miners in assists (seven-second C-USA/41st nation), game-winning goals (five-first C-USA/15th nation) and while rating second in goals (six-tied 14th C-USA), points (19-eighth C-USA/150th nation) and shots (44-eighth). Top scoring threat Bri Thomas has been relentless in her attack. She leads the team in goals (eight-tied seventh C-USA), points (20-eighth C-USA/) and total shots (47-sixth 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 1858:28 minutes of action.
Balanced Attack In League Play
Eleven Miners helped account for 18 goals during UTEP’s 10-games in Conference USA. Bri Thomas and Kennadie Chaudhary shared for the lead with three each. Bri Barreiro, Aleah Davis and Jeanna Mullen all had multiple tallies while Danielle Carreon, Yesenia Contreras, Lauren Crenshaw, Jodie Enokson Nicole Lindsay and Carleigh Simmons all had one goal in league action.
UTEP has done most its damage in the second half of contests this year. The Miners have tallied 22 of their 34 goals on the year in the second half. Overall UTEP has a +16 goal margin (34-18); it is +2 (12-10) 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 37 assists (second C-USA/27th nation) on its 34 total goals (fifth C-USA/59th 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.
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 238-155-30, including 12-6-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 196-107-23 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).