UTEP will aspire to wrap up its five-match roadswing on a high note by locking up with SMU (6 p.m. MT Friday) and Tulsa (1 p.m. MT Sunday).
With four home matches around the corner, the Miners (7-4-0, 0-2-0 C-USA) have ample motivation to build some momentum this weekend. UTEP will need to be in top form, though, with the Mustangs (4-5-1, 0-1-1 C-USA) and Golden Hurricane (5-3-2, 0-1-1 C-USA) forging a combined home record of 7-1-1 on the season (SMU 3-0, Tulsa 4-1-1).
The Orange and Blue’s depth will once again be tested, with freshman Aleah Davis and sophomores Mackenzie German and Lauren Katada sidelined indefinitely with injuries.
“We have a challenging weekend ahead playing two strong programs on the road,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We have a lot of respect for both SMU and Tulsa. They are great programs and are well coached. We will be up for the challenge and know that we must get results on the road. We will have to have a complete team effort and everyone bringing their top games.”
UTEP has featured a quality attack in 2012. It has tallied multiple goals in seven of the 11 games while only being blanked once. The Miners are producing 1.8 goals per game, which is good enough to rate fifth in the offensive-minded C-USA. Making the extra pass has helped, and UTEP is tied for second in the league with 21 assists.
Senior Tess Hall and junior Azia Nicholson share the team lead and are tied for fifth in C-USA with five goals each. German was in midst of stellar season with four goals and an assist through nine games before going down with the injury, but fortunately UTEP does has others capable of finishing. Jade Babcock has found the back of the net three times while Brittany Kindzierski has produced a pair of goals.
Several individuals have proven to be effective playmakers. Hall paces the Miners and is second in C-USA with six assists. Skye Schultz has registered four assists to check in second on the squad and tied for third in the league while Babcock, Tori Martyn and Nicholson have each produced a trio of helpers.
The Miners’ defense has done its job for most of the campaign, with seven of 11 foes being held to one goal or less. There have been a trio of shutouts (5th C-USA), and overall the opposition has been held to 1.4 goals per game (7th C-USA).
Sophomore Sarah Dilling has been on the field for every minute of every match, which has allowed her to be deadlocked for second in the league for shutouts at three. The backline has done a good job to limit chances on net, with Dilling having had to make four saves or more in only a quartet of contests.
While SMU is mired in an 0-2-1 skid, UTEP will have its hands full. The Mustangs are undefeated at home (3-0), with a 9-1 goal advantage in those games. Overall SMU has a +2 goal differential (18-16). It is accounting for 1.8 goals per contest, with a two-headed scoring monster in the form of Kenzie Scovill (six goals, t3rd C-USA) and Shelby Redman (five goals, t5th C-USA).Olivia Elliot (two) is the only other Mustang with multiple strikes. Another player to keep an eye on is Olivia Elliot. She hasn’t scored yet but has made her mark with seven assists (1st C-USA).
The Mustangs have given up two goals or more in three straight games and are allowing 1.6 goals per game (10th C-USA) but they have the ability to play lock-down defense. SMU has conceded just one goal in three home games. Shannon Moroney and Lauryn Bodden have both seen time in net. Bodden has appeared in nine games and made 31 stops while Moroney has contributed eight saves.
SMU has shown an innate ability to earn fouls (101 on foes) while at the same point committing the third-fewest infractions (79) of any C-USA school. Also noteworthy is the fact that it has tallied 12 of its 18 goals on the campaign in the second half of games.
Tulsa surged out to a 5-2 start on the season but has cooled off since by going 0-1-2 since. In spite of the recent struggles, the Golden Hurricane will present a big challenge Sunday. They have a +14 goal differential (21-7), aided by a +14 margin (18-4) at home. It is a three-pronged attack, with Claire Nicholson (five), Stepanie Aitken (four) and Rebecca Handley (four) responsible for 15 of the 21 tallies. Overall the 2.1 goals per game ranks third in the league.
TU’s defense is even more impressive, having allowed only seven goals, which ties as the fewest by any team in C-USA. It has posted four shutouts while keeping five other foes to just one strike. Katie Bykowksi (0.39 GAA) and Hayley Harryman (0.92 GAA) have split the time in the net.
A big part of the success for Tulsa on the year has been its ability to get out of the gates fast. It has out-scored foes by a combined count of 15-5 in the first half of games in 2012. TU does a good job at earning corner kicks as well, with an overall advantage of 50-23 in that area. The Golden Hurricane play a physical style of soccer, which has resulted in the third-most fouls (114) by anyone in C-USA).
Following this weekend, UTEP will finally return to the friendly confines of University Field. A four-match homestand will be on tap, with contests against UAB (7 p.m., Oct. 5), Memphis (12 p.m., Oct. 7), Southern Miss (7 p.m., Oct. 12) and UCF (11 a.m., Oct. 14).