The UTEP soccer team will look to cap off a three-game road swing on a high note when it plays at Charlotte (5 p.m. MDT Friday) and at Old Dominion (10:30 a.m. MDT Sunday).
The Miners’ (7-2-2, 0-1-0 Conference USA) match against the 49ers (6-4-0, 2-0-0 Conference USA) can be watched here (subscription required) while the tilt against the Lady Monarchs (3-7-0, 1-2-0 Conference USA) can be viewed here (subscription required).
“This weekend will be one of the hardest of the season playing two excellent sides on the road on the east coast,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We will have to be in top form to get positive results with all 22 players united together and very focused.”
On The Road Again
The games at Charlotte and Old Dominion will wrap up the longest road trip (three in a row) to start Conference USA play since 2012 (four straight road games). The Miners are 18-9-5 on the road since 2013, including a mark of 2-2-2 this year. Four road contests remain on the docket, including Friday’s match-up at Charlotte (4-0 at home) and Sunday’s tilt at ODU (3-3 at home).
Regionally-Ranked Foes Ahead
While UTEP bowed out of the NSCAA Central Region Poll after a three-week stay, the Miners will have a chance to make statement with schedule over the next couple of weeks. UTEP will play at Charlotte-rated 10th in this week’s poll- Friday while playing host to North Texas-ranked sixth in the current poll- in their Conference USA home opener on Oct. 7.
The Miners also are slated to play host to Rice on Oct. 9 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.
Charlotte is 6-4 on the year, including a perfect 4-0 at home with a +7 goal differential (11-4) in those contests. It is off to a 2-0 start in Conference USA play after downing ODU at home, 2-1, on Sept. 18 and picking up a 4-0 road win at FIU on Sept. 23. The 49ers have a prolific attack with 2.4 goals per game while holding big advantages in total shots (165-108), shots on goal (83-53) and corner kicks (55-34). Charlotte has scored 16 of its 24 goals in the second half.
Aside from road shutouts at nationally-ranked powers #9 North Carolina (L,0-3,Aug. 21) and at #22 South Carolina (L, 0-3, Sept. 5), Charlotte has tallied at least two goals in every other contest. Megan Greene (seven goals-third C-USA) and Julia Grainda (five goals-tied seventh C-USA) have accounted for half of Charlotte’s tallies this year. Martha Thomas (three), Emily Truelove (two) and Mary Manser (two) also have multiple goals.
Series History With Charlotte
Friday’s match at Charlotte is the third between the programs, with the 49ers holding a 1-0-1 edge thus far. The squads played to a 2-2 draw at UTEP on Oct. 11, 2013, while Charlotte handed UTEP a rare home setback (2-1) last year on Oct. 23.
Scouting Old Dominion
Old Dominion is 3-7 overall on the year, including 1-2 within Conference USA play, but that record has been hurt by challenges on the road. ODU is 0-4 away from home with a -8 goal differential (3-11), but it is a solid 3-3 at home with a +2 scoring margin (10-8). The Lady Monarchs have played a difficult schedule, allowing a combined 10 goals in losses at #4 Virginia (Aug. 28, L, 0-4), at Wake Forest (L, 1-3, Sept. 9) and vs. #17 USF (L, 1-3, Sept. 25); they have yielded a total of nine goals in the other seven contests.
While ODU has been held to one goal or less in eight of its 10 games, it has shown flashes of being an explosive squad offensively.
The Lady Monarchs routed East Carolina, 5-1, on Sept. 4 while also putting up a pair of goals in a 2-1 win vs. Richmond on Aug. 21. Iris Achterhof (three goals), Madison Hogan (two goals), Alex Davidson (two goals) and Kathryn Hill (two goals) have produced 10 of the team’s 13 goals. ODU has been especially active in the first half, with eight goals compared to five tallies after the break.
Series History With Old Dominion
UTEP is 1-0-1 all-time against Old Dominion. The Miners played to a scoreless draw at ODU on Oct. 30, 2014, while posting a 3-0 win in El Paso last year on Oct. 25.
UTEP has posted eight shutouts on the year, with that figure already tying as the third most in a single season in program history. The program record is 11 (2006), followed by nine (2014). This year’s team shares third with the 1997 and 2005 Miners.
Defense Does It
UTEP has registered more shutouts (eight) than goals allowed (five) on the year. The Miners have given up four goals in regulation (two off PK or PK rebound) and one in overtime. UTEP tops C-USA and is ranked among the national leaders for save percentage (.925)-aided by two team saves- goals against average (0.43-10th) and shutout percentage (.727-sixth).
UTEP is a well-coached team that competes hard throughout the entire match but it has run into trouble with fouls. The Miners have been tagged with 11.2 fouls per game, which puts them 14th in C-USA and 300th nationally (rankings based on fewest to most fouls/game). Fortunately with a few small tweaks by Coach Cross and company, the issue can become a distant memory.
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 goals against average (0.43-15th), total saves (60-30th), save percentage (.923-fourth) and GK minutes played (1039:43-21st)
Thomas And Davis Leading Offense
Seniors Bri Thomas and Aleah Davis have keyed the offense by combining for nine of the team’s 16 goals on the year. Thomas has five goals (tied seventh C-USA/111th nation) while Davis has put away four chances (tied 13th C-USA), all of which have served as match winners (first C-USA/fourth nation). Davis has also been an impact player with passing, tallying five assists (tied third C-USA/30th nation). Overall Davis has 13 points (tied fifth C-USA/106th nation) while Thomas has 11 points (tied 11th C-USA).
Sharing Is Caring
UTEP has been credited with 19 assists (third C-USA/32th nation) on its 16 total goals (seventh C-USA/128th nation) this year. Ten different Miners have recorded at least one helper on the season while eight players have scored. 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 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 233-151-30, including 7-2-2 this year. The Miners are under the direction of 16th-year head coach Kevin Cross, who sports a mark of 191-103-23 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).
Going Back In Time
UTEP battled hard only to suffer a 1-0 double-overtime loss at UAB in nearly 100° temperatures on Sept. 25. It was the lone game of the week for the Miners, who conceded a golden goal (108’) by Megan Hudgens. She buried the rebound off Rachel Green’s original shot that was turned away by Miners’ goalkeeper Alyssa Palacios.
The sophomore GK was credited with seven saves in the match. Blazer GK Kelsey Daugherty made four saves, including two sensational stops to flat out rob Jeanna Mullen (59’, 85’) on a pair of occasions. UTEP also had two extremely promising scoring threats wiped out on offside (74’, 88’) calls.
Looking Ahead To Next Weekend
UTEP will return to the friendly confines of University Field to play host to North Texas (7 p.m. MDT, Oct. 7) and Rice (12 p.m. MDT Oct. 9). The games mark the start of three straight at home for the Miners, who are 5-0-0 in El Paso on the year.
It will be “Black Out Night” vs. North Texas, with fans who wear black receiving free admission. For Rice, there will be a pre-game barbeque courtesy of Rudy’s Country Store and Bar-B-Q while supplies last.