The UTEP soccer team will put its six-match unbeaten streak on the line with a couple of challenging road matches this weekend. The Miners (8-2-1, 2-0-0 Conference USA) will square off at No. 25 UCF (6-2-2, 1-1-1 C-USA) at 5 p.m. MT Friday before locking up with Southern Miss (3-5-3, 0-1-1- C-USA) at 12 p.m. MT Sunday.
UTEP is 5-0-1 over its past six matches, and is playing its best soccer of the season. The Miners’ high-octane offense is producing 2.2 goals per game (2nd C-USA/51st nation), with the key being its balance. Seven different players have scored at least two goals. Freshmen Mackenzie German and Amanda Pak and junior Tess Hall share the lead and rank tied for sixth in C-USA with four goals each.
Senior Katie Dorman and freshman Lauren Katada have been key cogs, as well, with three goals to go along with three assists. Brittany Kindzierski (two) and Azia Nicholson (two) round out the aforementioned group of multiple-goal scorers. UTEP has peppered the opposition with 195 shots, which rates second in the league.
The Miners have been taking care of business at the other end of the pitch, with a goals against average of 0.71 (third C-USA/33rd nation). That figure has been aided by six shutouts. Freshman GK Sarah Dilling has impressed, boasting a save percentage of .852 (2nd C-USA/36th nation).
In order for the string of success to continue, the Miners will have to be on top of their game this weekend. No. 25 UCF, which has been ranked as high as 13th nationally, is coming off a come-from-behind 2-1 victory at Tulsa on Sept. 25. The effort moved the Knights to 5-1-2 over their past eight games.
UCF registers 1.8 goals per game (4th C-USA/90th nation), and it is similar to offensively to UTEP in terms of multiple players capable of finding the back of the net. Nicolette Radovcic paces her squad with four goals, while Tishia Jewell and Bianca Joswiak have put away a trio of chances. Jewell is even better at distributing, with her seven assists leading C-USA and ranking her ninth in the nation.
The Knights have been stingy on defense, yielding only 10 total goals for a GAA of 0.94 (5th C-USA/78th nation). Netminder Aline Reis has earned every minute of playing time and has delivered with a save percentage of .783 (5th C-USA/137th nation).
Starting games quickly have been key for UCF this year, which has out-scored the opposition by a count of 8-2 in the first half. Its offense has accounted for nine second-stanza strikes, but it has given up eight in the same timeframe.
The Miners will also have their hands full at Southern Miss on Sunday. While the Golden Eagles are 3-5-3 overall, they are undefeated at home (2-0-2) thus far in 2011.
USM relies upon a more defensive style of play, with its games featuring a combined 26 goals between the teams. The Eagles have tallied 11 of those, with Jordan Wagner’s four leading the way. Chelsea Cruthirds (two) and Elisha Tarbell (two) are the only other players with multiple strikes.
Eagle opponents have been limited to 15 goals (1.36 goals per game), thanks in part to the efforts of GK Hannah Vanderboegh. She has turned away .776 percent of shots faced.
It is generally a physical match when the Eagles are involved. They have been tagged for a C-USA high 108 fouls. USM foes have been called for 111.