The UTEP soccer team will vie to push its winning streak to three while also capping non-conference action on a high note when it renews the battle of I-10 at New Mexico State at 4 p.m. MT Wednesday.
The Miners (6-2) enter the match on the heels of claiming the third-annual Border Bash. Both triumphs were of the shutout variety, with the effort improving them to 5-1-0 over their past six matches.
UTEP has won both prior meetings with NM State, (1-0, OT, 8/21/09; 2-0, 8/19/11). The match-up in Las Cruces in 2010 was cancelled due to poor weather and was never rescheduled.
“The game versus the Aggies is a big one for us,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “It is the one soccer game that everyone in this region talks about for an entire year. Rivalry games are always tough to win, and it will be even more challenging playing the game in Las Cruces in front of their fans. We hope to see some UTEP Orange in the crowd! We will have to play at our very best in order to win this game. NMSU battles and they play extremely hard. This game will be a big test for us, and it is the last test before we enter crucial Conference USA play on the road."
For the second straight week, UTEP received votes in the NSCAA Central Region Poll. It is certainly merited, with the Miners’ six triumphs being the most of any team in Conference USA.
Explosive offense has been a staple during Cross’ tenure, and UTEP appears to be in good shape in that area once again this year. The Miners are just one of two teams in the league to have scored in every contest of the campaign. UTEP paces C-USA in assists (20) and shots (136) while rating second in goals (17).
Senior Tess Hall has played a large role in that area, pacing C-USA in assists (five), goals (five) and points (15). Azia Nicholson (four-t3rd) and Mackenzie German (three-t8th) also find themselves in the ratings for goals.
Making UTEP’s offense even more effective is the willingness to share, with five different Miners having registered at least three helpers. They are in the form of league leader Hall, Skye Schultz (four, t2nd) and Jade Babock, Tori Martyn and Nicholson (three, t4th).Tulsa, with two individuals, is the only other league squad to have multiple players in the top 10.
The defense is also coming on, with three shutouts in the past four match-ups. The three blankings check in tied for third in C-USA while the Orange and Blue rate fourth for goals against average (1.13). Sophomore goalkeeper Sarah Dilling, the reigning C-USA Defensive Player of the Week, has played every minute of every match. She shares the league lead for clean sheets while checking in tied for fourth in saves (27).
NM State played its first four matches on the year on either the road or a neutral site. It had a slow start at 0-2-1, but has managed a mark of 1-1-1 since. Layla Todd has been top threat with a pair of goals while Katelyn Smith has also found the back of the net. Mary Kate Koziol is responsible for half of the team’s helpers (two of four) on the season, with Todd and Elise Nordin also registering an assists.
The Aggies have been outshot by a count of 86-73, but they hold an advantage of 43-42 in the second half of matches. They also have earned more corner kicks (27-22) while being called for 67 fouls compared to 71 by the opposition.
UTEP will be idle for more than a week following the match against NM State. The Miners will resume play when they christen C-USA play at East Carolina at 5 p.m. Sept. 21. UTEP is slated to play its first four league matches in hostile territory.