The UTEP soccer team (4-5) will kick off its 10-game Conference USA slate when it plays at Southern Miss (6-2) at 12 p.m. MT Sunday.
“We are starting a new season now, Conference USA play, on the road versus Southern Miss who has the second best record in the league,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “Southern Miss is very balanced in that they score a lot of goals and also have a great defense. We will have to play our best soccer to get a positive result on the road versus a good team. We feel very confident in our abilities and look forward to the challenge.”
Going Back In Time
UTEP extended its winning streak to four while closing non-conference play on a high note with an 8-0 throttling of NCAA Division II program New Mexico Highlands on Sept. 13. Seven different Miners scored in the tilt.
Series History Vs. Southern Miss
UTEP is 9-1 all-time against Southern Miss, including winning the past eight match-ups with the Lady Eagles. When playing on the road in the series the Miners lead, 3-1, aided by a 3-2 double-overtime victory during the 2015 season. Last year UTEP successfully defended its home pitch by securing a 5-0 victory on Oct. 28, 2016. This is the first time the Miners are facing USM in the league opener.
Brief Rundown On The Lady Eagles
Southern Miss is off to a 6-2-0 start on the season, with the only losses of the year coming at the hands of Houston (4-1, Sept. 8) and Ole Miss (8-0, Sept. 3). The Lady Eagles have bounced back with back-to-back wins since, including a ridiculous 10-0 trouncing of Jackson State last time out. Becky McMullan (five goals, three assists, 113 points) paces the attack but Ola Akinniyi (three goals), Kierstin Bradley (three goals) Beth Coleman and Mariana Mejia (two) also have multiple goals. Miah Zuazua has been credited with a team-high four assists. Kelly Brahmbhatt has logged the bulk of time in net, recording 16 saves on the season and a perfect 6-0-0 record.
UTEP smoked DII program New Mexico Highlands, 8-0, on Sept. 13. It marked the largest shutout victory at the school since an 11-0 conquest of Grambling State in 2006. Additionally the eight goals tied as the eighth most in a single game in program history. Seven different Miners scored in the contest.
UTEP is riding a four game winning streak, outscoring the opposition by a count of 15-2 in those four contests. Eleven of the 15 goals have come from freshmen, with four each by Vic Bohdan and Anna Jimmerson, a pair from Cayla Payne and one by April Pate. There have been two shutouts in the stretch with Alyssa Palacios (22) and Dynastee Cain (two) combining to make 24 saves on 26 shots on goal in the four contests.
Turning It Around
After dropping its first five matches, including four in overtime or double overtime, UTEP has turned things around to go 4-0-0 since. The Miners have outscored the opposition by a count of 15-2 in the dominating sequence, which has allowed them to close non-conference play on a four-game winning streak. It marks the second time in three years that UTEP will head to league play having peeled off at least four consecutive victories. In 2015 the Miners won their final five non-league matches.
Offense Coming Alive
UTEP scored three goals on 22 shots on goal over the first five games of the season, four of which went to overtime. To their credit the Miners have made some adjustments and the offense has come alive in the past four contests. UTEP has tallied 15 goals in 33 shots on goal in four contests since, with at least two strikes in each of the matches. Helping give those numbers a big boost was the 8-0 whitewashing of New Mexico Highlands on Sept. 13.
Defense Is Too
The Miners conceded nine goals (1.80 goals per game) over the first five contests of the year but they have tightened things up since. In the four matches since, all UTEP wins, foes have managed a total of two tallies (0.50 goals per game).
Freshmen Anna Jimmerson (five-first C-USA/24th nation) and Vic Bohdan (four-seventh C-USA/61st nation) have accounted for nine of the Miners’ 18 goals on the year. Danielle Carreon, Kennadie Chaudhary and Cayla Payne each have two goals to their credit. Bohdan also paces the squad in assists (four-second C-USA/32nd nation), points (12-second C-USA/29th nation), shots (24) and shots on goal (12. Jimmerson is second on the team for points (10-seventh C-USA/62nd nation) and shots on goal (11).
Freshmen Anna Jimmerson (five-first C-USA/24th nation) and Vic Bohdan (four-seventh C-USA/61st nation)) have proven to be the top scoring threats for the Miners in 2017. The last time UTEP had a freshman pace the team in goals scored was 2006 with Tameka Sumter (13). You have to go back to 2004 to find the last time the top-two spots were held by freshmen when Jami Tullius and Cara Nordin each recorded 10 goals.
Save The Day
Alyssa Palacios has compiled 54 saves (first C-USA/third nation) in 2017 (6.00 saves/match-second C-USA/33rd nation), including a career-high tying 10 stops against New Mexico on Aug. 27. Her career total now stands at 297 saves which pushed her into third place on the Miner charts. The record holder is Amanda Smith (438; 1996-99) while Sarah Dilling (317; 2011-14) occupies second place. Palacios started the year in fourth place, but has since surpassed Brittany Poppoff (270; 2004-07).
Start Her Up
Junior GK Alyssa Palacios has started the first nine matches of the season, playing a total of 848:06 minutes (first C-USA/first nation). That has elevated her to 51 starts in as many matches since joining UTEP. The effort has allowed her to move from fifth place into fourth place on the UTEP career charts. Brittany Popoff (56; 2004-07) sits in third place.
For the first time in program history UTEP went to overtime in four straight contests to start the season. Overall the Miners have played overtime soccer five times so far in 2017. The five OT games already ties as the fifth most on the Miner single-season charts.
Freshmen Power In OT
Redshirt-freshman Cayla Payla hammered home a cross from true freshman Vic Bohdan to lift the Miners to a 2-1 overtime win at Idaho State on Sept. 3. It marked the first time in program history that UTEP had an OT winner where both the goal scorer and individual credited with an assist were both freshmen.
For the third time in program history (2008, 2015) the first four matches of the season were decided by one goal or less. Overall there have been six one-goal outcomes.
Even though the Miners returned 13 letter winners, including six starters, they are notably young in 2017. Of the 27 student-athletes on the roster, 20 are either freshmen (12) or sophomores (eight). There are only three seniors and four juniors.
Cross Joins Club 200
In his 17th year as the Miners’ head coach Kevin Cross has joined an exclusive club in UTEP Athletics history. At 201-113-23 he is the fifth head coach in Miner sports history to reach 200 career wins at the school (reached it with 2-1 victory vs. Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 10, 2017). Previously Don Haskins (men’s basketball, 719-354), Norm Brandl (volleyball, 355-337), Keitha Adams (women’s basketball, 284-209) and co-head coaches James and Kathleen Rodriguez (softball, 211-325) achieved the feat. Cross also has the fourth-most tenured run by a Miner head coach. He trails Haskins (37 years), Jere Pelletier (women’s golf, 22 years and counting) and Bob Kitchens (track & field, 22 years).
Trailing Only Haskins
Not only has Kevin Cross joined the 200+ win club at UTEP (did so with 2-1 win vs. Stephen F. Austin on Sept. 10, 2017), he has done so in style. His winning percentage stands at 62.9 percent (201-113-23). That figure trails only Hall of Fame Coach Don Haskins (men’s basketball) among the 200+ victory UTEP head coach club. Haskins had a 67.0 winning percentage (719-354) in his 37 seasons roaming the sidelines.
The Basic Facts
UTEP is in its 22nd season as a program, boasting an all-time record of 243-161-30. The Miners are under the direction of 17th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 201-113-23 in that time frame. He is assisted by two former Miners (Heather Clark and Jessie Pettit).
In 2017 the Miners hope to continue an unprecedented string of success on the road. Last year they went 5-4 in road matches to extend the school-record streak of a winning road record to four straight seasons. Overall they are a combined 22-14-3 on the road in that stretch, including 1-2 in 2017.
One of the best ways to measure a team’s worth across the board is the RPI, and that’s an area UTEP has thrived in. The Miners have produced a top-100 RPI in five of the eight past seasons and 10 times total under Kevin Cross, including a program-best 31 in 2005. Additionally, the Miners have secured a spot in the NSCAA Central Region top-10 poll in 11 of the past 13 seasons.
Matter Of Consistency
The Miners have averaged 12 wins while appearing in three conference title games and one NCAA tournament (2005, second round) under Kevin Cross. UTEP is one of 12 programs nationwide (325+ programs) to have hit 10+ wins in each year since 2002. Joining the Miners are Boston College, Florida, Florida State, North Carolina, North Texas, Notre Dame, Penn State, Stanford, Texas A&M, Virginia and West Virginia.