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El Paso, TX — UTEP will challenge East Carolina in the quarterfinals of the 2013 Conference USA Women’s Soccer Championships on the campus of Rice University at 10 a.m. MST Wednesday.
The match-up pits the #3 seed from the West Division Miners (12-5-3, 5-3-2 C-USA) against #3 seed out of the East Division Pirates (8-8-3, 5-4-1). The victor will advance to challenge either top-seeded Colorado College (13-4-1, 8-1-1 C-USA) or #5 from the West Division Tulsa (11-6-3, 4-3-3) in the semifinals at 3:30 p.m. MST Friday.
“East Carolina is very good and is very well coached,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. ”They are good on set pieces and are a tough team to beat. We will need to play our best soccer to get a good result.”
The Miners are 4-5-2 in Conference USA tournament action since joining the league in 2005, with championship appearances in 2005 & 2011. UTEP also played for a conference crown (WAC) under Cross in 2002.
Ten players who played in the double-overtime loss (2-1, at #4 Memphis, 11/5/11) remain on this year’s squad as it prepares to open play at the 2013 C-USA championships. Hannah Asuchak, Jade Babcock, Sarah Dilling, Mackenzie German, Lauren Katada, Kenah Linger, Tori Martyn, Azia Nicholson, Tayler O’Hayre and Gina Soto helped UTEP’s run to the finals in 2011 & each of them remains an important piece of the puzzle in 2013.
Nicholson (first team), Babcock (second team) and Martyn (second team) each earned All C-USA accolades earlier this week, in addition to redshirt-freshman Aleah Davis (third team). Martyn has also earned placement on the C-USA All-Academic team which was revealed Tuesday afternoon.
Nicholson, honored for a third straight year, paces the Miners and is tied for fourth in the league in goals (nine) and fifth in points (20). Martyn, who has been recognized in consecutive campaigns, has been a difference maker in defense and the mid through her play in the air. She has scored three times while also helping UTEP maintain possession and dictate tempo.
Babcock has scored three goals but has been more effective with her passing, piling up a team-best five helpers (t9th C-USA). For of the assists came on match-winning goals. She has also used her blazing speed to apply pressure, with a team-high 45 shots.
Davis, who has started all 20 matches, has been a key cog in the midfield. She is tied for third on the team in goals (three) and fourth in points (seven). Davis has also affected outcomes with her long & accurate throw-ins.
Angela Cutaia has been an effective offensive player, with her four goals trailing only Nicholson. She also has a trio of assists to share second place for points at 11 with Babcock. Katada (two) and O’Hayre (two) also have multiple goals.
Overall UTEP has outscored opponents, 30-22, on the year with a 16-8 cushion in the opening frame playing a big part. The Miners also enjoy overall advantages in shots on goal (125-76), total shots (282-149) and corner kicks (109-71).
The Pirates will provide a big challenge, given how hot they have been down the stretch. ECU opened up at 1-4-0 in league play before catching fire to finish out the year on a five-match unbeaten streak (4-0-1). The effort allowed it entry into the C-USA championships for a third straight year, in addition to securing a first-round bye.
The Pirates are led by a trio of All C-USA honorees, in the form of freshman D Caitlin Hill (first team), sophomore F Kendall Frey (third team) and redshirt-junior D Danielle Romano (third team).
Frey leads the team with five goals while Stephanie Seagrave checks in second with four. Lexi Miller has made her presence felt through her passing, with a squad-best six helpers.
ECU is very much a defensive-minded squad, with a +2 goal differential (23-21). It is even in the first half (7-7), while pace of play has picked up in the second half (14-13). Saundra Baron has played in 19 of the matches in net, with a goals against average of 1.06.
The Pirates can handle high-pressure situations, with a mark of 2-1-3 in overtime contests on the year, including 1-0-1 within C-USA play.
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