The UTEP soccer team is preparing for a pair of important Conference USA contests at home this weekend. The Miners (10-5-2, 4-3-1 C-USA) face Tulsa (10-5-2, 4-3-1 C-USA) at 7 p.m. MT Friday before locking up with SMU (9-6-1, 5-2-1 C-USA) at 1 p.m. MT on Sunday.
It will be “Greek & Fiesta Night” for Friday’s match, which will be highlighted by a live mariachi band performing. Sunday’s showdown against SMU is being billed as “BOSS & Military Appreciation Day.”
Things are very tight in the Conference USA standings, and UTEP is right in the thick of things. While No. 8 Memphis (15-0-1, 7-0-1 C-USA) is atop the league with 22 points, only three points separate second place through seventh place. The Mustangs and Colorado College (7-6-3, 5-2-1 C-USA) share second with 16 points while UCF (9-2-5, 4-1-3) is alone in fourth place with 15 points. The Golden Hurricane, the Miners and Rice (9-5-2, 4-3-1) are in a three-way tie for fifth at 13 points each.
Only the top six teams qualify for the C-USA championships, which is what makes this weekend of the upmost importance for the Orange and Blue. Three games remain on the schedule, and the good news for UTEP is that all of them will be held at University Field.
The Miners are unbeaten at the venue (8-0-1) in 2011, having outscored the opposition by a count of 26-7 in those matches. The first six triumphs of the campaign in El Paso were of the shutout variety.
Overall on the year UTEP has produced 2.2 goals per game (2nd C-USA), with a balanced attack keying the sequence. Seven different players have put away at least three opportunities, with junior Brittany Kindzierski pacing the squad at seven (t3rd C-USA). Junior Tess Hall has registered six strikes (t6th) while senior Katie Dorman and freshman Lauren Katada have tallied five goals each.
Dorman has been vital in setting things up for her teammates, as well, with five assists (4th C-USA). Hall, Katada and Tori Martyn have each recorded four helpers (t5th C-USA). UTEP has held the opposition to 1.29 goals per game (7th C-USA), thanks to quality marking and solid play in net. Freshman GK Sarah Dilling sports a save percentage of 78.0 (4th C-USA), and she has delivered 78 total stops (2nd C-USA).
Tulsa, which is 3-1 over its past four games, is very strong defensively. It has held its foes to 1.1 goals per game (5th C-USA), which has been aided by recording 11 shutouts. Furthermore, it has only permitted five goals in 14 contests against non-ranked foes. Katie Bykowski has garnered the bulk of playing time in net, posting a save percentage of 77.0 (6th C-USA) and being called upon to make 57 total saves (6th C-USA).
While the Golden Hurricane have registered 1.5 goals per game (6th C-USA), they do have some big-time threats. Claire Nicholson and Lindsay Kirch share the squad lead with five goals each. Jordan O’Brien has been dangerous in a play-making role, tallying six helpers (t2nd C-USA).
Tulsa has earned 86 corner kicks, including 46 in the second stanza. Its foes have been held to 60 and 32, respectively. It also does a great job of earning free kicks, with the opposition being tagged for 228 fouls compared to TU’s 154.
It will be a similar story in looking ahead to the contest against the Mustangs, who are 6-1-2 over the past nine games, on Sunday. SMU has yielded only 15 goals (0.9 GAA/4th C-USA), with only three opponents managing multiple strikes in a game. GK Courtney Webb has anchored the defense with a save percentage of 76.2 (7th C-USA).
SMU’s offense, which is putting up 1.4 GPG (t7th C-USA), has been well rounded. Seven different players have scored at least twice, with Kenzie Scovill setting the standard with five goals. The Mustangs have dominated their matches with regards to corner kicks. They have taken 94 while yielding only 56. Aiding that figure is a +30 differential (57-27) in the first half.