The UTEP soccer team held its first practice to prepare for the 2019 season under the lights of University Field Wednesday evening. First-year head coach Kathryn Balogun led her squad through a two-hour workout with a big-picture perspective in mind.
“We were excited to get started tonight,” Balogun said. “As a coaching staff we believe defense and team chemistry wins championships. With that being said, we will spend a great amount of time this preseason working on our defensive organization and team unity both on and off the field. As a new staff we have 24 players who don’t know our day-to-day in-season expectations, which will take considerable repetition and attention to detail by us.”
The opening practice contained a lot of emphasis on defensive shape and communication, two things that will be of upmost importance for a squad which will start a freshman in net. In the mix for that starting goalkeeper nod will be newcomers Zoey Lopez (Montwood HS) and Emily Parrott (Lone Star HS).
The duo is part of a big influx of talent, with 11 freshmen set to suit up this fall. That works out to nearly half of the roster (11 of 24) being comprised of freshmen, something Balogun isn’t shying away from.
“Our freshmen will be a big part of our success on and off the field,” Balogun said. “Not only do they make up a large part of our roster, many of them passed their fitness test on the first day. In addition, freshmen are typically eager to learn which makes teaching them our system a bit easier.”
Overall UTEP returns 13 players from last year’s squad, including six who started at least eight matches in 2018. Seniors Danielle Carreon, Lauren Crenshaw and Kori Lewis will be counted on for their leadership, something Crenshaw understands is especially vital this season.
“Having leadership this year is really important because we have such a young squad,” Crenshaw said. “Going into my senior year, I want to leave on a good note and make a good impression on the younger players so they can hopefully become leaders one day.”
The Miners will continue training over the next two weeks before kicking off the 2019 season at home against Wyoming on Aug. 22 (7 p.m.).
The match will be the first of two in the Sun City to start the year, with ACU (Aug. 25, 1 p.m.) rounding out the opening weekend of action.
For complete coverage of UTEP soccer, be sure to follow the Miners on social media at @UTEPSoccer (Twitter), @UTEPMinersSoccer (Instagram) and on Facebook or visit the official home of UTEP Athletics at UTEPMiners.com.