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UTEP Soccer Returns Home To Battle North Texas And Rice

Riding a two-game win streak, the UTEP soccer team is back home this weekend with match-ups against Conference USA leader North Texas (7 p.m. MDT Friday) and Rice (12 p.m. MDT Sunday).

The Miners (9-2-2, 2-1-0 C-USA) will have their annual “Blackout Game” vs. the Mean Green (8-3-1, 3-0-0 C-USA), with anyone wearing black receiving free admission. There will be special promotional t-shirts (while supplies last) given away at the gate. Fans can also enjoy free food (while supplies last) courtesy of Avila’s Mexican Food restaurant prior to the match as part of the “Fiesta Night” promotion.

The match-up with the Owls (5-4-1, 2-2-0 C-USA) is the “BBQ with the Miners” game, with Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q providing free food (while supplies last).

“UTEP Soccer is very excited to be playing at home in front of our great fans after a long road trip to start Conference USA play,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We are playing the best in the conference this weekend as North Texas and Rice were picked as #1 and 2 in the pre-season polls. Both teams are very talented and well coached. We will need to be at our very best to win these games. We have lots of great promotions for our fans with free food and free admission. We need our fans’ support this weekend, and are really looking forward to these games.”

Return To The Regional Rankings

After going 2-0 on the road (W, 4-3 at #10 central region Charlotte, Sept. 30 & W, 2-0, at Old Dominion, Oct. 2), UTEP broke back into the NSCAA Central Region poll. The Miners checked in 10th in this week’s poll, marking the fourth time this season that they have been among the top-10 squads in the region.

UTEP can’t relax, though, with North Texas (ranked sixth) coming to town Friday. The Miners are also slated to play host to Rice on Sunday and FAU on Oct. 23. Rice was ranked 10th for three straight weeks (Aug. 23, Aug. 30, Sept. 6) while FAU placed seventh on Aug. 23 and eighth on Aug. 30.

Scouting North Texas

Preseason league favorite North Texas has lived up to that billing thus far in 2016. The Mean Green are 8-3-1 overall, including a perfect 3-0-0 in C-USA play (only unbeaten team in league games). All three losses came on the road to power-conference programs.

Rachel Holden (eight goals-second C-USA/29th nation) and Marchelle Davis (five goals-tied ninth C-USA) have half (13-of-26) of the team’s goals on the year. UNT has shown an uncanny ability to earn penalty kicks (five). While the Mean Green have committed fewer fouls (111) than opponents (127), they have nearly double the amount of yellow cards (13-7), with Holden being issued four yellow cards (second C-USA/fifth nation).

Series History With North Texas

North Texas has a 4-1 series lead against the Miners, but the games have been extremely competitive throughout the years. All five match-ups between UTEP and the Mean Green have been decided by one goal, including UNT’s 1-0 overtime win in El Paso in the most-recent match-up on Oct. 3, 2014.

Scouting Rice

Rice, which was tabbed second in the C-USA preseason poll, enters the weekend at 5-4-1, 2-2 Conference USA. The Owls dropped their season opener on the road (L, 4-1, at #8 Texas A&M on Aug. 21), but they are 2-0 in hostile territory since. Rice features a balanced attack, with 13 different players scoring at least one goal.

Aliza Wolfe paces the team with three goals while Samantha Chaiken, Jenny Fichera and Darcy Mickalow all have scored twice. Fichera, Nia Stallings and Annie Walker all have four assists to account for 12 of the team’s 15 helpers on the year. Rice has a +5 scoring margin (9-4) in the first half of games and is +1 (11-10) in the second stanza.

Series History With Rice

Rice has a 10-6-2 advantage in the all-time series with UTEP, but the Miners picked up a 1-0 overtime victory on Oct. 5, 2014, in the most-recent meeting. Expect a competitive match Sunday, as the last 10 match-ups have featured two ties and eight one-goal games.

Historic Road Trip

UTEP posted a 4-3 win at Charlotte on Sept. 30 and a 2-0 victory at Old Dominion on Oct. 2 to cap its three-game road swing on a very high note. It marked the first time since 2007 (W, 6-0 at Houston-11/2 & W, 1-0 at Rice-11/4) and second occasion in program that the Miners won both road games of the weekend in conference play

Home Games Galore

UTEP, which is 5-0-0 at home this year, will play five of its remaining seven Conference USA contests within the friendly confines of University Field. The stretch starts this week by welcoming North Texas (7 p.m. MDT Friday) and Rice (12 p.m. MDT Sunday) to town. Other home tilts on the slate are UTSA (7 p.m., Oct. 14), Florida Atlantic (12 p.m., Oct. 23) and Southern Miss (7 p.m., Oct. 28).

Getting It Done On The Road

The Miners are 20-9-5 on the road since 2013, including a mark of 4-2-2 this year. That effort has UTEP on the cusp of securing its school-record fourth straight year with a winning road record. The Miners have two road games (at Marshall, Oct. 20 and at Middle Tennessee, Oct. 23) left in the regular season.

Shutout City

UTEP has recorded nine shutouts on the year, including a 2-0 blanking at Old Dominion on Oct. 2 last time out. That figure rates tied for second on the program’s single-season records. The school standard (11) was set in 2006 while the 2014 squad also registered nine shutouts.

Defense Does It

UTEP has registered more shutouts (nine) than goals allowed (eight) on the year. UTEP tops C-USA and is ranked among the national leaders for save percentage (.908-sixth)-aided by two team saves- goals against average (0.59-19th) and shutout percentage (.692-seventh)

Palacios Up To The Task

Sophomore GK Alyssa Palacios has emerged as an elite keeper, with simply sensational numbers. She tops Conference USA and is among the nation’s leaders in save percentage (.906-seventh), total saves (77-12th), GK minutes played (1219:43-12th) and goals against average (0.59-25th). She has made at least seven saves in seven contests, including a season-high nine in the 4-3 win at Charlotte on Sept. 30.

Balanced Attack In League Play

Five Miners have helped account for six goals since the start of Conference USA action. Jeanna Mullen

(twice) leads the way while Bri Barreiro, Kennadie Chaudhary, Yesenia Contreras and Aleah Davis each have one goal. Additionally, four different Miners (Barreiro, Chaudhary, Lauren Crenshaw and Thomas), have one assist each.

Thomas Still Applying Pressure

Bri Thomas, who shares the team lead for overall goals with Aleah Davis at five (tied ninth C-USA/144th nation), has still been putting the opposition on its heels in C-USA play. She has recorded a squad-best seven shots in the three league games, and her pressure has opened up the field for other Miners to step up.

Finish Strong

While UTEP has gotten its offense going early on of late, it has still done most of its damage in the second half of contests this year. The Miners have tallied 17 of their 22 goals on the year in the second half. Overall UTEP has a +14 goal margin (22-5), with a +3 differential (5-2) in the first half and a +12 advantage (17-5) over the final 45 minutes.

Sharing Is Caring

UTEP has been credited with 23 assists (tied second C-USA/37th nation) on its 22 total goals (sixth C-USA/67th nation) this year. Ten different Miners have recorded at least one helper on the season while 10 players have scored at least once. 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).                                           

Conference Recognition

UTEP has claimed three Conference USA Players of the Week in 2016, with sophomore Alyssa Palacios netting the C-USA Goalkeeper of the Week twice (Sept. 6 and Sept. 19) and freshman Lauren Crenshaw securing the C-USA Defensive Player of the Week (Sept. 6). Palacios is the first Miner GK to earn multiple weekly honors from the league office since Chandra Morden did so in 2010.

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 235-151-30, including 9-2-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 193-103-23 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).

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