ON THE PITCH
Utah State soccer (3-2-1) continues its long road series this weekend, taking on Eastern Michigan (3-3-1) and Oakland (0-7-1). The Aggies will play the Eagles on Friday, Sept. 15, at 3 p.m. (MT) and will take on the Golden Grizzlies at 10 a.m. on Sunday, Sept. 17.
Utah State’s Friday match at Eastern Michigan will not have a video stream available. However, Sunday’s match at Oakland will be available on ESPN3 and the WatchESPN app. Live stats will be available for both matches. Links to each option will be posted on the Utah State soccer social media pages before the start of the matches.
SCOUTING EASTERN MICHIGAN
Eastern Michigan has started the season with a 3-3-1 record, welcoming the Aggies on a two-match winning streak. Last weekend, the Eagles posted 1-0 home wins over Youngstown State and Oakland. Eastern Michigan returns seven starters and 13 letterwinners from a year ago, a team that went 6-10-4 overall and 4-5-2 in MAC play. Sophomore forward Sabrina McNeill leads the offense with two goals on the year, while junior Kaylin Williams leads the goalkeepers with 30 saves and 11 goals allowed. Scott Hall is in his 19th season as the head coach at Eastern Michigan, where he has an overall record of 176-145-51.
Friday will mark the first-ever meeting between Utah State and Eastern Michigan.
Oakland continues to seek its first win of the season, sitting at 0-7-1 on the year. The Golden Grizzlies are coming off a 1-0 overtime loss at Eastern Michigan, and will play at Green Bay on Friday before hosting the Aggies. Senior forward Cecilie Dokka is the leading scorer for Oakland, tallying two goals this season. The Golden Eagles have utilized two goalkeepers, with redshirt freshman Nadine Maher and sophomore Sophia Braun splitting time and allowing a combined 17 goals. Juan Pablo Favero is in his first season as the head coach at Oakland.
Sunday will mark the first-ever meeting between Utah State and Oakland.
Friday and Sunday’s matches will be the second and third of three first-time opponents for the Aggies this season. Last week’s match against Minnesota was also a first-ever series meeting for the Aggies.
A FAMILIAR FACE
Oakland head coach Juan Pablo Favero is no stranger to Utah State as an opposing coach. Now in his first year at the helm of the Golden Grizzlies program, Favero spent the last five seasons as the associate head coach at Mountain West foe San Diego State. While there, Favero helped the Aztecs to four-straight Mountain West regular-season titles.
AROUND THE NCAA
This weekend’s opponents will be representing the sixth and seventh different athletic conferences on Utah State’s 2017 schedule. Eastern Michigan is in the Mid-American Conference, while Oakland is in the Horizon League. This season, the Aggies have also faced opponents from the Big Sky, Big Ten, Big West, Pac-12 and Summit League, and will start Mountain West competition next week.
Of all the teams in the Mountain West, Utah State has had the fewest team fouls called on it, tallying 47 through six matches. However, USU is fifth in the league in yellow cards, with five issued to five different players.
HELD IN CHECK
Typically a high-powered offense, Utah State took just three shots at Minnesota last week. Prior to Friday’s match, the Aggies had averaged 10.8 shots and had scored in all but one contest. The three shots were the fewest taken by an Aggie team since the 2014 season, when USU took just two against Arkansas. Utah State did not have a shot on goal against the Gophers, the first time going without since a match against Weber State in 2013.
PUT ME IN, COACH
The Utah State bench is making the most of its chances this season. Against Minnesota, all three shots came from non-starters, coming from freshman midfielder Sadie Mertlich, sophomore forward Alecia Robinson and junior midfielder Emma Clark. On the season, the Utah State bench players have taken 42 percent of the team’s shots (24-of-57). Mertlich leads the group with seven shots, the third-most of any USU player.
CLIMBING THE LADDER
Senior forward Wesley Hamblin continues to climb the all-time assist list in the Utah State record books. She is currently tied for third place, recording the 15th assist of her career in the Sept. 1 win at Idaho State. Jessica Brooksby (2013-16) holds the all-time assist record with 18.
WHAT WE PLAY FOR
As the winners of the 2016 Mountain West title, UNLV will host the 2017 Mountain West Championships. The tournament will begin on Tuesday, Oct. 31, continuing with semifinals on Thursday, Nov. 2, and the championship match on Saturday, Nov. 4. Only the top six teams in the Mountain West standings will advance to the conference tournament. The winner of the tournament will receive the league’s automatic bid to the NCAA Tournament.
Utah State was picked fourth in the Mountain West Preseason Poll, as voted on by the league’s 12 head coaches. The Aggies earned 97 points in this season’s poll, along with one first-place vote. Last season, Utah State finished tied for third in the final standings with a 7-4-0 conference record. San Diego State was picked as the favorite to win the league for the fifth year in a row, tallying 110 total points and three first-place votes.
THE LAST TIME OUT
Utah State fell at Minnesota, 5-0, last week in its only match. On the day, USU was out-shot by the Gophers, 17-3. Senior Sara Cobb and sophomore Maggie Richey minded the net for the Aggies, tallying five saves together.
Utah State is set to open Mountain West play next weekend in a pair of road matches. The Aggies begin conference competition on Friday, Sept. 22, in a game at San José State at 3 p.m. (MT). The weekend will continue in a Noon competition at Fresno State on Sunday, Sept. 24.
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