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El Paso, TX — The UTEP soccer team will look to build on its solid start to the season with a pair of home matches this weekend. The Miners (2-0-0) will challenge back-to-back NCAA Tournament participant Utah State (2-0-0) at 7 p.m. Friday before locking up with new Division I member Abilene Christian (1-0-0) at 1 p.m. Sunday.
Fans are encouraged to wear white for Friday’s battle of unbeaten teams and get chalked up in Orange and Blue by the Orange Jam Crew (Sponsored by Color Run). By purchasing an adult ticket, fans will receive one free admission for a child. It will also be “Family Faith Night” on Friday. Churches may receive free admission for their members by contacting the UTEP marketing department at 915-747-6065.
It will be “World Cup-Picks Up” day on Sunday, with all fans who wear their favorite professional soccer team or country’s soccer team jersey receiving free admission. There will also be a free post-game soccer clinic for all kids 12 and younger.
The Miners showed good form in the opening weekend of the 2013 season, toppling Utah Valley University, 3-2, on Aug. 23 before stifling Omaha, 2-0, on Aug. 25. The Orange and Blue attracted better than 500 fans in each contest, and it was certainly appreciated by head coach Kevin Cross.
“We are very thankful for El Paso’s support this past weekend,” Cross said. ”The city welcomed our team and gave us a huge boost to gain two big wins. Thank you to the fans of UTEP Soccer who were awesome last weekend!”
Four different Miners netted goals, with sophomore Angela Cutaia leading the way by providing the match winner in each contest. The tallies were the first of her career. Seniors Jade Babcock and Azia Nicholson also found the back of the net, as did junior defender Taylor O’Hayre with her initial career strike. Babock, Taylor Kidd and Mackenzie German each added assists.
Four of UTEP’s five goals were in the first half, allowing it the chance to dictate tempo. The Orange and Blue also held a commanding advantage in shots (33-16).
GK Sarah Dilling set the tone for the defense by turning away 11 of 13 shots face, while back-up and redshirt-freshman Keighton Allen was credited with one stop in her UTEP debut.
The overall effort afforded UTEP a 2-0-0 start for the second time in the past three years and the sixth occasion overall in the Cross era. There is no time for pats on the back, though, with proven Utah State and a rising Abilene Christian program invading the Sun City this weekend.
“We have a big test on Friday night with former WAC powerhouse and current member of the Mountain West, Utah State,” Cross said. “Utah State always has an awesome soccer program, winning the WAC last year and playing in the NCAA Tournament. We are going to need a strong effort from our team, and hope our fans come out to give us a big boost. Abilene Christian is a new Division I team with some quality players. They are a very up and coming program, and we will have to play very well if we expect to win.”
Utah State, which won four of the past five WAC championships, is now in its first year of the Mountain West Conference. The Aggies are unbeaten on the year (2-0-0), with home wins against Creighton (3-0, Aug. 23) and Utah Valley University (1-0, Aug. 26). Four different players have scored for the Aggies. Netminder Jeannie Woller has registered 10 saves in keeping a clean sheet in both contests.
USU holds a slight edge in both shots (29-25) and shots on goal (12-10) but it has been dominant in corner kicks (16-3).
The Miners lead the series, 3-2, but they did fall on the road to USU, 2-1, on Aug. 19, 2012, in the most-recent match-up.
ACU’s program started in 2008, and it has quickly developed. The Wildcats, formerly a division II program, have received division I status and will compete as a member of the Southland Conference. They opened up the 2013 season by toppling one of the very best NAIA team’s in the country, Oklahoma City University, 3-2, on Aug. 25.
ACU has a 26 on its roster, including 14 newcomers, but it has plenty of experience provided through its five-member senior class. Andrea Carpenter, who scored in the opener, is a player to watch. An All-America honoree, she holds the ACU career records for points (98) and goals scored (44). It will be the first meeting between the ACU and UTEP.
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