El Paso, TX — The UTEP soccer team will kick off a six-game season-opening homestand by playing host to Utah Valley University at University Field at 7 p.m. MT Friday. The tilt is part of the Fourth-Annual Border Bash, with the Miners also battling University of Nebraska Omaha (UNO) at 1 p.m. MT Sunday.
Highlighting the lid lifter is the UTEP Alumni Association, Student Alumni Association & Rudy’s pre-game tailgate (5-7 p.m.) in University Field’s parking lot. Rudy's will provide free food (while supplies last) and fans will also have the opportunity to win prizes and tickets to the game. It will also be UTEP’s “Camper Reunion” night, with all campers receiving free admission by wearing their Miner soccer academies t-shirt.
“We are super excited for the season to begin,” UTEP head coach Kevin Cross said. “We are all hungry to play great soccer for the awesome fans in El Paso. We love playing soccer in front of the best fans. Please come out to our awesome tailgate at 5 pm before our first game. We are very thankful for the Alumni Association's organization of the event, and Rudy's donating their awesome barbecue!”
UTEP stands 14-3 in season openers, including 11-1 under Cross. It is 4-2 all time against Utah Valley, including a 2-1 road conquest in the first game of the 2012 campaign. The Miners have never faced UNO.
The 2013 roster features 26 student-athletes, the largest at the start of a season since Cross’ first team. Playing time will be at a premium, which may initially be an adjustment for the players and staff but will ultimately result in good for the squad in the long run.
Four of the top five 2012 point producers return for the Miners, including All-Conference USA honorees Tori Martyn and Azia Nicholson. Overall nine starters & 14 letterwinners are back from last year’s unit (10-10-0) while redshirt-freshman MF Aleah Davis & GK Keighton Allen good to go.
Also back is sophomore Mackenzie German, who had four goals in nine games last year before going down with an injury.
UTEP’s five seniors (Jade Babcock, Kenah Linger, Martyn, Nicholson and Gina Soto) have combined to play 21,469 minutes (357.8 hours) during their careers, with all of that experience putting them in the perfect position to lead both on and off the pitch this year.
Junior GK Sarah Dilling, who is already fourth all time at UTEP for career wins (21), games played (43) and started (43) for goalkeepers, will be counted on to anchor the defense. Backing up Dilling is redshirt-freshman Allen, who has made tremendous strides since arriving in the Sun City.
Ten true freshmen are in the mix, including highly-touted El Pasoan Atzimba Casas. Casas scored 149 goals with Socorro High School, including an astounding 62 during her senior season.
UVU is a program on the rise. After dominating competition in the Great West Conference (won two straight and three of past four league titles), it will now compete as a member of the Western Athletic Conference. The Wolverines were picked second in the preseason poll, and junior MF Lexi Robinson and senior GK Lauren Sack were tabbed to the All-WAC preseason team.
The Mavs are entering their second year of competition as a member of The Summit League. Ten of 11 starters return for UNO, though it did lose 2012 leading goal scorer (Danielle Archuleta) to graduation. Overall 14 of 17 letterwinners are back for UNO, which was predicted to finish sixth in the league.