The unbeaten UTEP soccer team will wrap up the road portion of its non-conference slate by playing at Incarnate Word (6 p.m. MDT, Friday) and at Stephen F. Austin (12 p.m. MDT, Sunday).
“We have a very tough road weekend ahead of us,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “When you play on the road you have to be at your very best. Both of these schools have played some of our Texas Conference USA opponents. We know Incarnate Word will be a very toughFriday night game, and Stephen F. Austin is one of the toughest games on our schedule as they are perennial conference champions.”
UTEP has bolted out of the gates at 4-0-2, making it one of 28 unbeaten teams nationwide. The effort also ties as the program’s third-longest undefeated streak to start a season. The record was set in 2005 (15 games; 14-0-1) followed by the 2002 squad (12 games; 12-0-0). This year’s team shares third with the 1998 squad (six games; 6-0-0).
The University of Incarnate Word returned its top three leading goal scorers from the 2015 squad (3-14-2), in the form of Abbi Koenigs, Emani Stewart and Sabrina Martineua. The Cardinals dropped their first three games of the season before battling to a scoreless draw at home vs. UTRGV Sunday.
They had given up nine goals in the first three tilts before posting the shutout. Sydney Huntsinger has played the bulk of minutes in goal, recording 17 saves for a .708 save percentage. Ana Campa and Brooke Hanson share for the team lead in total shots (six). Campa and Martineau tie for the top spot for shots on goal (two).
Series History With UIW
The series with UIW is tied at one. The Cardinals beat the Miners, 3-1, on Sept. 3, 2001, (Kevin Cross’s first year as head coach). More recently UTEP posted a 4-0 win on Aug. 29, 2014. Friday’s match will be the first between the programs that is contested in San Antonio.
Stephen F. Austin brought back eight starters and 19 letter winners from last year’s team (9-8-2). The Lady Jacks are a perennial power, with 13 conference titles (10 regular season, three tournament) since the program’s inception in 1995. They opened up 2016 with consecutive road losses at Pacific 12 members Oregon State (L, 1-2, Aug. 26) and Oregon (L, 0-3, Aug. 28) before topping UTSA, 3-2, in their home openerSunday.
SFA is 45-5-5 in Nacogdoches since 2010, with three of those five losses in the stretch coming in 2013. Hailey Hunt is the top scoring threat with two goals while Madison Hall and Crystal Calvit each have produced one strike. Hanna Barker has registered a team-leading two assists. Lillie Ehlert (1.87 GAA, nine saves) and Allyson Smith (2.87 GAA, nine saves) have split time in goal. Three of SFA’s four goals on the year have been in the first half.
Series History With SFA
UTEP holds a 4-3 advantage in the series with Stephen F. Austin, but the Ladyjacks have emerged victorious the past two times. SFA won, 2-1, in double overtime at University Field on Sept. 8, 2013, while successfully defending its home pitch, 1-0, on Sept. 1, 2011. UTEP, however, has tasted success in Nacogdoches, posting a 2-1 overtime victory on Sept. 3, 2010. That proved to be the lone home loss for SFA that season.
Individual Honors Pour In
UTEP claimed two of the three weekly C-USA Player of the Week awards as announced by the league office Tuesday. Sophomore Alyssa Palacios (Goalkeeper of the Week) and freshman Lauren Crenshaw (Defensive Player of the Week) were honored after helping the Miners post back-to-back shutout wins against Wyoming and Texas State. It was the first such career honor for both individuals.
Team Accolades Too
With a 4-0-2 record and a +9 goal differential (11-2), UTEP has garnered some recognition in the most-recent NSCAA Central Region Poll. The Miners broke into the rankings by placing ninth this week. They have now been regionally ranked in 11 of the past 13 campaigns.
Defense Does It
For the second time in school history, the Miners have recorded shutouts in five of the first six games. UTEP blanked seven of the initial eight opponents in 2006. Grand Canyon University is the only team to score on the Miners in 2016, doing so twice in a 3-2 road UTEP win on Aug. 28.
Overall it is the third time at the school that foes have been held to two total goals through six games. The aforementioned 2006 squad yielded two goals over its first eight matches while the 2011 Miners gave up two tallies through their initial seven contests.
The Miners are 17-7-5 on the road since 2013, including a mark of 1-0-2 this year. UTEP, which has strung together a school-record three straight seasons with winning road records, will look to take another step in the right direction by playing at UIW and Stephen F. Austin this weekend.
UTEP has tallied 10 of its 11 goals on the year in the second half. The Miners scored once in the first 45 minutes vs. NM State (W, 5-0, Aug. 19) before finding the back of the net four times in the second stanza. Every tally since has come after the break. For what it’s worth, both goals by the opposition in 2016 have also been in the second half.
Palacios Up To The Task
Sophomore GK Alyssa Palacios has gotten off to a strong start in 2016. She has allowed just two goals in her 571:15 minutes of action (14th nation) for a goals against average of 0.32 (22nd nation). Palacios has made 41 saves (12th nation) for a .953 save percentage (11th nation).
She delivered at least six stops in the first five games of the year, tying former Miner great Amanda Smith’s (9/10-9/23/99) record for most matches in a row with 6+ saves. Last time out vs. Texas State Palacios was credited with five saves.
Thomas And Davis Leading Offense
Seniors Bri Thomas and Aleah Davis have keyed the offense by combining for seven of the team’s 11 goals thus far in 2016. Thomas has four goals (37th nation) while Davis has put away three chances (91st nation). Davis has also been an impact player with passing, recording a team-best three assists (33rd nation).
The Basic Facts
UTEP is in its 21st season as a program, boasting an all-time record of 230-149-30, including 4-0-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 188-101-23 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).
Going Back In Time
UTEP pushed its win streak to three after posting consecutive shutout victories against Wyoming (W, 2-0, Sept. 2) and Texas State (W, 1-0, Sept. 4), squads which entered the weekend with a combined record of 4-2-2. Senior Aleah Davis scored the match winner in both contests while fellow classmate Bri Thomas also found the back of the net.
Freshman Lauren Crenshaw was credited with two assists (on Davis’s game-winning goals), with junior Kennadie Chaudhary and freshman Natalie Valentine also registering helpers. Sophomore GK Alyssa Palacios turned away a season-high tying eight shots against Wyoming while collecting five stops vs. Texas State.
Looking Ahead To Next Weekend
UTEP will conclude non-conference action at home against Nevada (7 p.m. Sept. 16) and UTRGV (1 p.m., Sept. 18). It will be “Kids Club Night” against Nevada while all military members get in free as part of “Military Day” vs. UTRGV.