El Paso, TX — The UTEP soccer team will return to the pitch and continue its Conference USA slate with a pair of road matches this weekend. The Miners (8-3-1, 1-1-0 C-USA) will play at UAB (6 p.m. MT Friday) and square off at first-year member FAU (11 a.m. MT Sunday).
UTEP is coming off an emotional-charged 1-0 OT victory against Southern Miss on Sept. 29. It will aim to carry that success into the two road matches this weekend while also extending the unprecedented string of success in hostile territory. The Miners are riding a school-record four-match winning streak on the road.
The prior school standard for consecutive road victories (three) was shared by the 2003, 2005 & 2009 squads. The record-setting 2005 team holds the program mark for longest unbeaten streak in hostile territory at six (5-0-1). This year’s squad can match that feat if it can secure either a win or tie against both the Blazers (8-3-0, 1-1-0 C-USA) and Owls (2-6-3, 0-0-2 C-USA).
“We have a tough challenge ahead with two road games against great opponents,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “UAB is having an excellent season and is regionally ranked right now. FAU plays some of the best defense in the league. We will have to be very good in all facets of our game in order to win these two games on the road. Our girls are mentally tough and will be ready for the games.”
With a youth-laden roster, 11 of the 23 Miners to appear in a contest this year are either true freshmen or redshirt-freshmen, it was evident that leadership from the seniors would be critical to their success in 2013. The seniors have not disappointed, combining for 11 of the team’s 19 goals on the year.
Azia Nicholson paces the squad in goals (five, t5th C-USA) and points (12, t5th C-USA) while Jade Babcock (3-2-8), Tori Martyn (2-0-4) and Gina Soto (1-0-2) have also been offensive threats. Kenah Linger has made her mark on the defense, by starting nine matches and earning 911 total minutes of action.
That is not to say that underclassmen haven’t made a difference, though, with sophomore Angela Cutaia (3-3-9) and redshirt-freshman Aleah Davis (2-0-4) rounding out the group of six Miners with at least two tallies on the season. Cutaia has been a clutch performer with three match-winning goals to rank tied for third in C-USA.
UTEP has scored nine goals in both the first and second stanza of games this year. There has been a difference in the defense, though, with four tallies conceded in the opening frame compared to seven in the second half.
Junior Sarah Dilling has been outstanding in net for the Orange and Blue. She has started all 12 matches and is among the C-USA leaders for goals against average (0.98, 9th), and shutouts (4-t6th).
UAB has enjoyed a stellar season to date, with a mark of 8-3-0, with a 5-2-0 effort on the road proving the team’s mettle. The Blazers enjoyed a five-game winning streak during the middle of non-conference play. They fell, 2-0, at Middle Tennessee in their C-USA opener on Sept. 27 but bounced back to derail Marshall on the road, 1-0, on Sept. 29.
UAB’s offense is spearheaded by Paige Hanks (five) and Kasey Johnson (four), but it does have a balanced offense. Overall seven different players have found the back of the net twice.
The Blazers have jumped all over the opposition early on, with a 16-5 advantage in the first half. They have outshot foes by a count of 91-69 in the opening frame. It has been a different story in the second stanza, with the opponent enjoying edges in both goals (12-9) and shots (83-67).
UAB uses a physical style of play, which has resulted in 99 fouls compared to just 75 by the opposition. The tough approach has paid off defensively, with a goals against average of 1.55. That number in itself is a bit misleading, with five of the 16 opponent goals on the year courtesy of Southeastern Conference member Ole Miss (5-2, Aug. 25).
GKs Courtnie Northern & Angelica Jimenez have essentially split playing time in net, with Jimenez earning just five more minutes of action on the year. Northern sports the best save percentage (79.3) & goals against average (1.09) but has had some tough luck with a record of 3-2-0. Jimenez is 5-1-0 on the year despite a save percentage of 57.7 & a GAA of 1.98.
FAU is a defensive-minded squad, evidenced by posting back-to-back scoreless ties to start C-USA play. The Owls rely heavily on their defense. It has scored 14 goals on the year, but 10 of those came in a neutral-site romp of UABP on Sept. 15. There are some threats, though. Claire Emslie (three), Taylor Sorrels (two) and Julie Taylor (two) all have multiple goals on the year.
Sorrels (11) & Emslie (10) rank first and second on the team, respectively, with shots on goal. No other FAU player has more than five.
Courtney Zwetsch has been the lone GK in 2013 for FAU. She has made 44 saves on 59 shots faced for a save percentage of 74.6 and a goals against average of 1.29. Zwetsch has also matched Dilling in terms of shutouts with four blankings.