Women’s soccer kicks off spring season

Luis Gonzalez, Sports Editor

nce the UTEP women’s soccer team took the field. After the heartbreaking Conference USA Tournament loss in penalty kicks at the hands of Louisiana Tech, the Miners are back on the pitch for their spring season.

Unlike the fall, there is no trophy on the line for head coach Kevin Cross and the Miners. UTEP will play five games during the next month with their focus set on the future.

“We are looking forward to our challenging spring schedule,” Cross said. “The spring games are very beneficial for player development.”

The nature of the spring season is very different from that of the fall. The five-game schedule is miniscule compared to the 20-plus-game season of the fall. The spring games are also all exhibitions, meaning they are all practice. In the fall, all games played count toward the team’s post-season aspirations.

The spring season can still be very productive for the Miners and have an impact on how successful the team is for the 2015 fall season. Coach Cross will use this time to build a foundation, provide experience to younger players and begin finding replacements for the seniors who will not be on the roster next August.

The team will look quite different from the one Miner fans have become accustomed to in the last few years. Gone will be key players who formed the backbone of UTEP soccer. Goalkeeper Sarah Dilling, defenders Hannah Asuchack and Tayler O’Hayre and midfielder Mackenzie German were all starters last season and have all played their last game for the Orange and Blue. Sophomore Keighton Allen will now draw the assignment of protecting the Miners’ goal, while others such as sophomore Aleah Davis and junior Angela Cutaia begin to adjust to even bigger roles.

“We typically see a few key players grow tremendously in the spring,” Cross said. “We are hoping for the same benefits this spring.”

The spring season for UTEP started on the road this past weekend, when they traveled to Arizona for a couple of meetings with two PAC-12 members. On Saturday, April 28 Arizona State University hosted the Miners.

The following day UTEP traveled down I-10 to Tucson to face the University of Arizona.

Both the Sun Devils and Wildcats were two of the nine teams the PAC-12 Conference had in last year’s NCAA Tournament. Despite not being at the top of the standings in conference, both teams won more than 10 games in the season, including one at the NCAA Tournament.

“We will be tested against some of the best teams in Division I soccer on the road,” Cross said prior to the road trip.

Against the Sun Devils, the Miners came away with a tough 3-0 loss. Looking to bounce back the next day, UTEP battled U of A to a tight 0-1 loss.

After the tough tests on the road, UTEP will return to El Paso to finish its spring season at home. Games against New Mexico Highlands on April 18, Eastern New Mexico on April 25 and the University of New Mexico on April 26 will all take place at University Field.

The Lobos are another double-digit win team who will return all but one player from the last season and are expected to compete for the Mountain West Conference title next fall.

Although nothing is won in the off-season, steps can be taken to increase the possibility of success when the time comes when games really do matter. The eight freshmen who signed letters of intent will not be on the field this spring, but Cross will have seven returning starters with which to begin forming a foundation that will provide results in the fall.

“The spring results do not predict our fall success, but rather allow players to grow so they can help us accomplish our goals in the fall,” Cross said. “We are looking forward to playing these games to see where our players and team is at currently.”

Luis Gonzalez may be reached at [email protected]