UVU soccer: women's team opens season with pair of road matches
OREM — The 2013 women's soccer season gets underway Friday as Utah Valley University gets set for a pair of road matches to begin the year. UVU will kick things off in El Paso, Texas, against the Miners of UTEP Friday at 7 p.m. before returning to Utah for a date with Utah State at 4 p.m. Monday.
For the second consecutive season, UVU will meet UTEP on opening day. Last season in Orem, the Miners came away with a 2-1 victory, scoring the decisive goal in the 90th minute of regulation.
UTEP returns nine starters and four of its top-five point producers from a squad that went 10-10-0 overall and 3-8-0 in Conference USA last season. Headlining that group of returners is preseason all-conference selection Azia Nicholson. A senior defender, Nicholson was second on the team in goals in 2012 with six — one of which came in the season opener at Utah Valley. The Miners will also rely on midfielders Tori Martyn and Mackenzie German. A senior, Martyn was a third team all-conference pick last season after finishing with three goals and four assists while German, now a sophomore, returns after scoring four goals in her first nine collegiate contests.
UVU is 2-4-0 all-time against UTEP and has dropped the last two meetings. The Wolverines last defeated the Miners on Sept. 6, 2009, a 1-0 triumph in El Paso.
"UTEP is fast, strong and physical and we know that they will challenge us," head coach Brent Anderson said. "We are going to have to be organized as a team and play smart in possession in order to be successful down there. It's a great way to start the year and to gauge how prepared we are for the season."
Monday's match at USU marks the sixth time that the Wolverines and Aggies have met on the pitch. UVU claims just one win in the all-time series, having defeated USU 2-1 on Oct. 6, 2006, in Logan.
The two sides met in Orem last season as the visitors escaped with a 2-1 overtime victory. Senior midfielder Kendra Pemberton, a first team All-WAC selection in 2012 tallied the winner on that day — one of her seven goals for the season.
Entering its first season in the Mountain West Conference, Utah State returns 18 letterwinners from a 2012 squad that won the WAC tournament championship and made its second consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. Key returners alongside Pemberton include senior midfielder Jennifer Flynn, who scored 7 goals last season; senior forward Mari Miyashiro, a first team All-WAC selection coming off a four-goal, six-assist season in 2012; and junior defender Taryn Rose, the 2011 WAC Freshman of the Year.
"Utah State always brings out the best in us and I hope that we bring out the best in them," Anderson said. "I think we match up well with them, but it's another one of those games where we are going to have to be at our best."
For Anderson and first-year assistant coach Alyssa Lowry, the match also stands as a bit of a homecoming. Both served as assistants under current Aggie head coach Heather Cairns, with Lowry also suiting up as a defender for USU from 2005-08.
"Our familiarity with one another as a coaching staff may be one of the reasons we match up so well," said Anderson of facing his alma mater. "It really drives how we as coaches prepare for the game tactically and the small adjustments we might make in trying to find a way to break the game open. But it's a fun game for a lot of reasons and that familiarity is one of them."
Utah Valley returns from its season-opening road trip for the start of the home season on Aug. 29. The Wolverines will play host to another in-state rival, Weber State, at Clyde Field.
Kellen Hiser is an assistant sports information director at Utah Valley University. For more information on Wolverine athletics, visit WolverineGreen.com.
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