Throughout his tenure at UTEP, head coach Kevin Cross has stressed the importance of home-field advantage, boasting the best home record since joining Conference USA in 2004. Today, on the team's Facebook page, the posters were unveiled and this is definitely a team to watch out for in the 2012-13 athletic year.
Sure, men's basketball will be exciting to watch all the newcomers and see how much they've improved, football has a great schedule and women's basketball is coming off the best basketball regular season (men's or women's) in school history, but soccer is where you should keep your focus at.
This year, the team won't have as many home games as last year (10-7-3, 4-5-2 C-USA) but they will be at home when it counts: for the Conference USA Tournament.
Quick poll, how many of you even knew soccer would be hosting the tournament in 2012?
I don't care if it's basketball, track and field, cross country, softball or soccer, any C-USA Tournament is exciting to witness, and this year's team is going to be contending, just wait and see.
They will be returning junior midfielder Azia Nicholson (2nd team C-USA), Tess Hall (3rd team C-USA and Cross' self-proclaimed "female David Beckham"), the Schultz sisters (Skye was the C-USA Fr. of the year three years ago) and reigning freshman first-team C-USA GK Sarah Dilling, who is one of the most exciting goaltenders I have ever seen.
Here's their schedule (via UTEPAthletics.com), so be sure to study it. The home games to watch for are their home-opener Aug. 22 against Texas State then Army in the Border Shootout, Oct. 7 against Memphis (a top-25 team every year who knocked out UTEP last year) and Oct. 14 against UCF (another top-25 team every year and a team that made it to the Sweet 16 in the NCAA Tournament in 2011).
If you ask me, this team could be another middle-of-the-road team in C-USA but again, will have the advantage when it counts in a two-bid league for the NCAA Tournament (usually, Memphis or UCF are always shoo-ins).
Health was a big factor last year but everyone was back in time for the tournament (except for Skye Schultz, who redshirted but will be back as a junior this year). But I'm calling it right now, this team will be the most successful UTEP team of any sport in the 2012-13 year.