The Southern Miss soccer team (10-3-1, 4-2-1 C-USA) played its first tie matchup against the UTEP Miners (6-8-2, 1-5-1 C-USA) in the final home contest of the season on Oct. 14.
“I thought we played well, we created chances and sometimes luck is not on your side,” Southern Miss Head Coach Mohammed El-Zare said. “We did everything that we needed to do, it’s just that final ball [goal] was missing.”
The game was a defensive battle for the first half, with both teams entering halftime with a 0-0 score. Southern Miss attempted nine total shots in the first half, compared to just one for UTEP. There were also 11 total fouls between the two teams in the first period, with Southern Miss committing seven total fouls and UTEP committing four.
In the second half, sophomore Miah Zuazua put the Golden Eagles ahead of the Miners at the 43rd-minute mark of the half on a penalty kick, giving the team a 1-0 lead. However, the Miners tied the game up on a penalty kick in the 41st minute, tying the game at 1-1. That score held for the rest of regulation, and the two teams headed to overtime.
In overtime, the Golden Eagles and Miners were unable to score in the two 10 minute periods, and the team played its first tie result of the season to date.
Overall, Southern Miss had 20 shots on the day to UTEP’s 11. Sophomore goalie Kendell Mindnich also recorded six saves on the goal for the Golden Eagles.
Following the game, the team’s six seniors were recognized. El-Zare talked about the ways that seniors Elishah Santiago, Ola Akinniyi, Ashton Stennis, Aisa Ribbens, Hannah Abrams and Stephanie Garcia have contributed to the team during their time with the program.
“They have helped us change the culture, in terms of how we train, the work ethic and helping us be accountable for our performance,” El-Zare said. “So certainly, what they [have] brought in is immense in terms of their contribution.”
Despite the tie, this season is the most successful season for the program in terms of win total since the 1999 team finished 10-9-1. This year’s team will have a chance to tie and possibly surpass the inaugural 1997 team’s program record of 11 wins.
The Golden Eagles are also primed to make an appearance in the C-USA Women’s Soccer Tournament with three regular season games to go, but they still have to face three teams with winning records to end the regular season on a high note. Middle Tennessee State has a 9-4 1 record, while UAB has a 7-6-1 record and Louisiana Tech sits with an 11-5-1 record.
El-Zare talked about the changes made for this season that have helped to make an impact on the team.
“This has been huge. It’s taken a while, [but] with the leadership of [Athletic Director] Jon Gilbert and what he has brought into the program [and] in all the programs you can see that,” El-Zare said following the team’s 1-0 win over UTSA on Oct. 11. “We have been working for years to be in this situation. We have the addition of our second full-time assistant. Our strength and conditioning [coach] is full time for the first time. We had for the first time in the last two years the same strength and conditioning coach so there continuing with that.”
Southern Miss will conclude its 2018 regular season with a three-game road trip against Middle Tennessee State, UAB and Louisiana Tech. The team’s game against Middle Tennessee State is set to start at 7 p.m. on Friday.