El Paso, TX — The UTEP soccer team will put its school-record-tying six-match road unbeaten streak on the line when it plays at Louisiana Tech (6 p.m. MT Friday) and Tulsa (1 p.m. MT Sunday) this weekend. The Miners (9-3-3, 2-1-2 C-USA) are 5-0-1 on the road this year but will face strong opposition in the form of the Bulldogs (7-7-1, 2-3-0 C-USA) & Golden Hurricane (9-4-1, 3-1-1).
Overall the Orange and Blue are on a roll, with a mark of 6-1-2 over their past nine tilts. They are unbeaten in the past four (2-0-2), a good omen considering the importance of the matches. UTEP holds onto fifth place in the West Division of C-USA. The top five teams from the West & the top five teams from the East will a spot in the C-USA Championships.
“We are very motivated for this weekend’s road trip and the two games we have,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “Louisiana Tech is one of the best defensive teams in the conference and is coming off a great win on Sunday. We will have to be very sharp on attack to score against them. We feel we have a very dangerous attack. Tulsa is playing great soccer, is regionally ranked, and will be a tough team. We will have to be at our best against Tulsa. UTEP Soccer is ready and cannot wait for these two challenges ahead.”
Senior Azia Nicholson is pacing the Orange and Blue’s attack and establishing herself as one of the top players in C-USA. She is third in the league in both goals (eight) and points (18). Fellow classmate Jade Babcock is one of five other Miners with at least two tallies but she has done her damage through passes & overall pressure as well. She paces the squad and checks in tied for seventh for assists (four) while placing sixth in total shots at 38. Nicholson has also piled up the shots with her sum of 34 ranking 10th.
The Miners’ have outscored foes, 24-16, this year, aided by an advantage of 13-5 in the opening period of games. The Orange and Blue have also been dominant in terms of total overall shots (217-104) and corner kicks (87-44).
When the opposition has been able to come up some chances, UTEP has relied upon the steadying efforts of junior GK Sarah Dilling. She has recorded 40 saves on 55 tries for a .727 save percentage and a 1.02 goals against average (6th C-USA). Aiding those figures have been four shutouts (t7th C-USA).
La Tech opened up at 2-4-1 but it has put things together since that point. The Bulldogs sport a mark of 5-3-0 since the sluggish start, and they have won two of the past three matches. They have outscored the opposition, 25-17, with a big cushion in the second half (16-7).
Kathryn Sloan (six) and Kailee Hervey (four) have been the top scoring threats, contributing 10 of its 25 goals on the campaign. Taylor Douglas (four) and Brittany Beddow (three) are contributing to the cause through assists.
Caitin Updyke has earned the bulk of the playing time in the net. She sports a 1.41 goals against average and has managed 50 saves on 67 shots faced. Updyke has enjoyed some very strong contests, with four shutouts to match the sum by Dilling.
La Tech has done a great job of physical, smart soccer. The biggest proof of that is the fact that the opposition has been tagged for 132 to La Tech’s 95.
There will also be a big challenge for the Orange and Blue against Tulsa Sunday. TU is 9-4-1, including 4-1-1 at home. TU has been solid on offense, with Bradi Hinch headlining the attack at six goals. Claire Nicholson and Camille Pelley have also become involved with a trio of goals.
While the Golden Hurricane has certainly had some moments on offense, it has been the efforts on defense that has set it apart. TU has yielded just eight goals in 14 contests this year. It permitted three against #13 Penn State while giving up a pair to C-USA league leader Colorado College.
GK Hayley Harryman has been dominant, with 45 saves on 53 shots faced for a 84.9 save percentage. Her goals against average is a minute 0.56 and she has been credited with eight shutouts.
Following the weekend’s matches, the Orange and Blue will be back home for the final time of the 2013 season. UTEP will play host to UTSA on “Senior Night” at 7 p.m. MT Oct. 25 and then lock up with Colorado College at 12 p.m. MT Oct. 27.
“We are very appreciative of everyone’s support of UTEP Soccer in 2013,” Cross said. “We hope they can come out and watch our final home weekend against UTSA and Colorado College.”