Soccer: Conference USA poses serious challenge for young Blue Raiders


Sally Gill dribbles the ball against a UIC defender against UIC on September 10, 2017 in Murfreesboro, TN (Joi Williams/MTSU Sidelines).

Photo by Joi Williams / MTSU Sidelines

Story by Calvin Smith / Sports Reporter

The Middle Tennessee Blue Raiders (3-4) begin conference play on Sunday against the University of Texas-San Antonio Roadrunners. Just like always, Conference USA brings a tough slate of games for the Blue Raiders.

MTSU currently places tenth in the C-USA standings with a record of 3-4. Rice (5-2-1) leads C-USA with a 2-0 conference record, with North Texas (5-2-1) right behind with a 1-0 conference mark. Charlotte (6-3) follows the top two with a 1-0 conference record as well. These three were pretty much expected to be here as they were preseason favorites to win the conference after poll results were released in August.

As the top of the preseason predictions hold true, Western Kentucky isn’t living up to their preseason billing. Despite having three all-conference players, the Hilltoppers are 3-5-1 with a 0-1-1 conference record.

Marshall (2-7), Florida International (1-4) and UTSA (1-7) round out the bottom of the standings. The Blue Raiders appear to be separating themselves from the cellar of the conference so far this season with their three-game win streak of late.

LA Tech’s Mylene Roy-Ouellet leads C-USA in goals with eight, followed by Charlotte forwards Martha Thomas and Megan Greene, who have seven and six goals respectively. Blue Raider freshman Peyton DePriest continues to prove herself throughout her freshman campaign as she trails the top three goal-scorers by just one goal with five of her own.

Louisiana Tech and UAB are playing stellar on defense and in goal. UAB leads C-USA in goals against per game by only giving up seven in nine games so far this year. Likewise, LA Tech has only surrendered 10 goals in 12 matches.

Moving forward for MTSU, games against Rice, LA Tech and UAB will be pivotal for the Blue Raiders in conference play. Middle Tennessee won’t play North Texas, Charlotte or Old Dominion this season, making their schedule easier since each of those teams are in the top five of C-USA.

With vital conference games on the horizon, MTSU will continue to look at young players like DePriest, Amber Hoot and Sam DeBien to step up. The upper echelon of C-USA is experienced and talented, but Coach Aston Rhoden’s young squad is set to gain needed experience from the back half of the season.

For more sports stories, follow Calvin Smith (@calvin_smith33) on Twitter.

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To contact Sports Editor Rusty Ellis (@RustyEllis13), email sports@mtsusidelines.com.

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