The UTEP soccer team will kick off its 2012 season with a pair of road matches this weekend. The Miners will play at Utah Valley University at 7:30 p.m. MT Friday before challenging Utah State at 12 p.m. MT Sunday. It is the earliest start date in program history, and it marks the first time since 2007 that UTEP will initiate a campaign in hostile territory.
“We are very excited to get the 2012 season under way,” head coach Kevin Cross said. “We work all year long for the season, so we are looking forward to seeing the results of our hard work. We challenge two extremely tough teams on the road this weekend.
“Both schools were their respective conference champions, and Utah State was also represented in the NCAA tournament. We know it will be a very tough weekend, but we are excited for the challenge. This weekend will be great preparation for the tough Conference USA play that we will have coming up.”
UTEP stands 13-3 in season openers, including 10-1 under Cross. The Miners return nine starters and 15 letterwinners overall from last year's squad (11-8-4) which made a run to the 2011 C-USA Championship title tilt while notching the program's 10th straight winning season.
Notable returnees include 2011 All Conference USA performers junior D/MF Azia Nicholson (second team) and senior MF Tess Hall (third team) and 2011 C-USA All-Tournament Team honorees senior F Brittany Kindzierski and sophomore GK Sarah Dilling.
The Miners need to be in top form out of the gates in 2012, with both matches this weekend and the first four overall coming against defending conference champions.
UVU brings back seven starters and 16 letterwinners overall from its 2011 Great West Championship squad. Included among the group is a quartet of all-conference performers. The Miners are 3-2 all time against the Wolverines, including 1-1 in Orem, Utah.
USU also possesses a veteran squad, with seven starters and 12 letterwinners returning. The Aggies were 15-5-2 last year, won the WAC Tournament title and competed at the NCAA Tournament.
Following the road matches, UTEP will return home to play host to the 13th-annual Border Conference Shootout. The tournament will commence with the Miners’ home opener against Texas State at 7 p.m. on Aug. 22. There will be a free tailgate, thanks to UTEP Alumni Association & UTEP Life Skills, from 5-7 p.m. where select fans can win prizes and receive free tickets to the tilt.