The UTEP soccer team will conclude the road portion of its 2011 Conference USA schedule this weekend with a pair of matches. The Miners (10-3-2, 4-1-1 C-USA) kick off the trip by facing unbeaten and No. 8 Memphis (13-0-1, 5-0-1 C-USA) at 6 p.m. MT Friday before challenging UAB (3-9-1, 0-4-1) at 12 p.m. MT Sunday.
It is a critical pair of contests for the Orange and Blue, who are tied for third place in the C-USA standings. The Lady Tigers and Colorado College (7-4-3, 5-0-1) sit atop the league with 16 points, while the Miners and SMU (8-5-1, 4-1-1) share third with 13 points. UCF (8-2-4, 3-1-2) holds onto fifth place with 11 points and Rice (8-4-2, 3-2-1) is one point back. Only the top six teams will qualify for the C-USA tourney.
The Miners enter the match-up with Memphis flying high, standing 7-1-2 over their past 10 contests. The effort has ensured the program’s 10th consecutive winning season, but UTEP is focused on the matter at hand of locking up with the first-place Lady Tigers.
Head coach Kevin Cross’ charges will rely upon their balanced, high-scoring offense which has produced 2.4 goals per game (2nd C-USA/26th nation). Seven different players have scored at least three goals, with junior Brittany Kindzierski leading the charge at seven (t2nd C-USA). Junior Tess Hall has finished six opportunities (t5th C-USA) while senior Katie Dorman and freshman Lauren Katada have produced five goals each (t10th C-USA).
Dorman has also been a playmaker with five assists (3rd C-USA), with Hall, Katada and Tori Martyn aiding in the area with four helpers each to rate tied for fourth in the league. At the other end of the pitch solid marking by the back line has resulted in a goals against average of 1.16. Freshman netminder Sarah Dilling has turned away 79.5 percent of shots faced (3rd C-USA/110th nation), while registering 70 total saves (2nd C-USA).
No. 8 Memphis is one of six remaining unbeaten teams at the NCAA Division I level. It is accounting for 2.5 goals per game (1st C-USA/19th nation), with a quartet of players having tallied at least four goals. Christabel Oduro and Natali Gomez-Junco are the top threats with six strikes each, which places the duo tied for fifth in C-USA. Lizzy Simonin and Rasheeda Ansari have pitched in four goals.
While the Lady Tigers’ attack has been impressive, its calling card has been defense. The U of M is keeping the opposition to 0.6 goals per game (1st C-USA/17th nation). It has recorded eight shutouts while keeping three other foes to just one tally. Netminder Elise Kuhar-Pitters has a sparkling .870 save percentage (1st C-USA/18th nation), but she has only been called upon to register 40 stops.
Friday’s match-up has been designated as “Senior Night,” and the U of M will honor eight players following the match.
In glancing ahead to the tilt on Sunday, the Blazers will be attempting to get back on track. UAB enters the weekend in a rut. It started the year 2-2 but has been saddled with a mark of 1-7-1 since, with a -15 (8-23) goal differential during the sequence.
Emma Smith is the top scoring threat for UAB, which is accounting for 1.00 goals per game. The Blazers are permitting 2.62 goals per game.
A big reason for the UAB troubles has been its challenges in the first half. The Blazers have been out-scored, 22-4, in the opening period. Things have been much tighter after the break, with eight UAB goals and 12 by its foes.