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Recapping the 2011 Softball Season 6 Doling out Spring Football Grades 9 The Final Word 11

MAY 11, 2011




When I started writing this week’s letter, I felt like I was writing an ending, a good-bye of sorts. In essence, it is. It’s the ending of the year’s sports at UTEP; a good-bye to a season that may or may not have lived up to everyone’s expectations. Looking back, I am left yearning for more. Though this was not a completely disappointing year, I can’t help but feel unsatisfied with the way the it went. Football did well enough to go to a bowl but then performed less than stellar in the New Mexico Bowl. They had the chance to show us that this upcoming season would be different, but after the conclusion of spring ball, there is still no clear quarterback to take the helm and lead this team, which leaves me wondering what next season will truly be like. While basketball did phenomenally during the regular season and throughout the C-USA tournament, they gave it all away at the end. Now the team goes into next season will essential a whole squad of inexperience, albeit talented, players. Finally, softball struggled from the beginning due to unforeseen injuries. While their ability to keep giving 100% inspired us all at MI, after two injury-riddled seasons, I look forward to seeing actual results on the diamond. Alex addresses this very topic in his wrap up of this year’s softball season. UTEP66 looks back at spring football and rates every unit and the team as a whole. Josh’s Final Word calls out UTEP fans and their need to back up the Miners’ basketball team come the start of season. And as usual, there are several captivating photographs by Jeff. As always, we thank you, our readers, for your continued support of MI and UTEP sports. And so, I say good-bye to another year of UTEP sports. Tomorrow, I will begin looking to next year’s seasons in eager anticipation. I hope you will be too.

Rebecca Frazier Burch

MAY 11, 2011


Cover photo: Senior Becky Smith prepared herself before stepping up to the plate this past weekend. It was her final weekend in a Miner uniform. Image: Jeff Taylor.

THE BIG PICK With only a couple inches to go, senior Becky Smith came up a bit short while trying to score Saturday after noon in the first game against Tulsa. The out was UTEP’s closest chance to ear ning a run in the 1-0 loss. Jeff Taylor




The UTEP softball team had high hopes coming into the 2011 season, but their hopes did not last long as the PreSeason Conference USA Player of the Year was redshirted at the beginning the year. Things only got worse as 14 of the 17 players on the roster had a taste of the injury bug at some point throughout the season. “I was looking at my roster, and I have 17 women on my team. I only have three that haven’t been injured this year,” Head Coach Kathleen Rodriguez said. “I am talking 14 big, big injuries. I’m talking broken noses, broken figures, surgeries here, surgeries there. We are talking about stuff that is going to put people out for a while.” Senior Camille Carrera and junior Chelsea Troupe were to headline the line up of the Miners team, but with Carrera redshirted after a back injury, Troupe had to take on the load alone. Unfortunately, Troupe was also lost for the year after a collision at home plate during a play against Houston late in the season. With those two key players out, the team was force to adjust rather quickly, but they just could not rebound in time to produce results. When a team is put together to center around certain players, no team can succeed if main components are not there to contribute. Rodriguez knew it was going to be tough, but not in her wildest imagination did she know it was going to be this difficult. “I think if you lose somebody that you know is going to be a spark and you know is going to be a difference maker, it makes it tough to rebound from that,” said Rodriguez. “That’s who you expected in your line up, and that’s how I recruited.” Prior to her injury, Troupe was on a roll, hitting .404 with 14 home runs

(UTEP’s single season record), eight doubles and 14 RBIs, but injuries put a halt to her record breaking season “She was leading conference in everything offensively,” Rodriguez said. “Then to have the rug pulled out from underneath you real quickly, there is really nowhere else to go.” To make matters worse, Rodriguez knows if she had had her full team out there playing at full strength, it would have been a completely different season. “Our team is a different scoring machine without Cami and without Troupe; it’s just night and day,” Rodriguez said. “My kids are working. It’s not that they are not and it’s not that they are not fighting, it’s just that we do not have the fire power to back it up.” Rodriguez had to improvise throughout the season putting in freshman at key positions. She also had to shift players to positions they normally did not play, forcing them to learn new skills quickly. In addition, the pitching staff was unable to duplicate the success of last year’s team and the departure of Stacie Townsend. Senior pitcher Courtney Auger cannot believe that her senior year has ended in such disappointment. “I did not expect this; not from how hard we worked every day,” Auger said. “I could not have expected this. You just look towards the next game and just hope that it gets better.” Fellow senior outfielder Kia Moore feels the same way about her senior year. Shocked and at a loss for words, Moore had hopes that the season would turn around at some point and UTEP would get back to its winning ways. Sadly, things did not work out in her or the Miners’ favor as UTEP ended their conference season 1-22-1, finishing dead last in the conference and missing out on a chance to play in the conference tournament.

“I don’t think anyone would expect their senior season to end like this or be like this,” Moore said. “I guess it happens to the best of us; you know it happens.” Yet, Moore never lost the motivation to keep going out there and going for the win. Pure gut and determination helped her through a season which she did not envision. “After the first loss, you are like you want to do better; we will pick it up and figure things out,” said Moore. “Each loss you just keep staying positive, and there is something that can push you over and you get that one ‘W,’ and then you will start from there. Just staying positive was my motivation.” On a good note, the loss of only three seniors and the experienced gained by the underclassmen who took on major roles this season makes future bright for the Miners. The team will get back Carrera and Troupe for one more year, which means UTEP can instantly be in the hunt for a conference title next season. And although the season has just ended, Rodriguez already wishes she could start preparing and practicing for next year. She, like her team, want to take what they can from this season and move forward. “We wrapped it up on Sunday, and I wish we could have started back up on Monday,” Rodriguez said. “I love these kids, and I love the fact that they want to win and they want to put something out there. The fans who keep on coming out here, I promise we will pay them back.” You never know what will happen in any given season, but like any other sport, there is always next year for this team. No doubt that next year’s softball team, if they remain healthy, will be a treat to watch.

Freshmen Kayla Black was one of several newcomers who saw a large amount of playing time thanks to a wide variety of injuries to the team this season. Jeff Taylor

Javia Hall impressed coaches enough during spring practices that he landed a spot with the “1’s” for the Spring Game. Steve Kaplowitz



GRADING THE SPRING FOOTBALLDRILLS UTEP66 A very competitive spring football practice closed with some key areas addressed and good progress made, but to say there are no unanswered questions would be wishful thinking. Measuring progress during the spring can be skewed when playing against teammates. This year’s spring game format, which had the ones and twos playing against a combination of the threes, fours and some twos, added difficulty in assessing the team’s overall progress. On the positive side, off-season conditioning paid big dividends for the young offensive line and the defense as a whole. A change in the off-season conditioning, shifting the emphasis from running to the weight room, gave several offensive linemen much needed added bulk and strength. Defensively, Marcus Bagley worked hard on his strength and quickness with the results apparent throughout the spring. Not to be outdone, former safety Michael Pickett bulked up twenty-five pounds and became the newest member of the linebackers corps and one of the spring’s success stories. Offense Offensively, many fans were focused on the quarterback position; eager to see who would grasp the starting nod. In addition, with the loss of nine offensive starters, the staff had to retool the offensive line, find a third starter, add wide receivers and develop a starting tight end. Quarterbacks: Nick Lamaison was the favorite at quarterback going into the spring. The JUCO All-American had a solid spring, but he didn’t dominate as many had expected. At the conclusion of spring football, Lamaison found himself in a

close battle with the rapidly developing redshirt freshman, Javia Hall. Going into the spring, Hall was sitting at number four, but a very strong final two weeks of practice and a good spring game finale left Hall battling head-to-head with Lamaison for the starting nod. Lamaison’s experience and leadership are a plus, and he will need them to stay out in front of Hall. As for the other two contenders, Carson Meger and Tate Smith; both had their moments, but neither could get close to the top two. An uncertainty at quarterback is not what Head Coach Mike Price was hoping for this spring, but he has to be pleased with Hall’s development. Spring Grade: C Offensive Line: Coach Bob Connelly worked hard with his young offensive linemen this spring. They are a work in progress but show the makings of a solid starting group built around Eloy Atkinson. James McDonald, James Nelson, Brander Craighead and Nathan McGage all looked good. What is of immediate concern is the sheer lack of numbers. The Miners need more offensive linemen; they need to add depth. I look for the staff to make some late recruiting additions to address this concern. Spring Grade: C Wide Receivers: With Donovan Kemp and Marlon McClure out for spring practice, the door was left wide open for someone to step up and lay claim to a starter’s position. Jordan Leslie had a strong spring, staking his claim on a starting berth. Sure-handed Julio Lopez, Lavorick Williams and Anthony McGhee also had a nice spring and are sure to be in the rotation. Spring Grade: C

Tight Ends: Kevin Perry missed spring practice due to an injury which allowed Craig Wenrick and Eric Tomlinson the opportunity to show what they could do. Wenrick and Tomlinson looked good. With the addition of Katrae Brown, the Miners will go into fall with four solid tight ends. Spring Grade: C+ Running Backs: The Miners running backs had a big spring and big spring game. Joe Banyard, Vernon Frazier and Leland Meyers are in mid-season form, although Frazier already looks like he is ready for a big year. Furthermore, the good news kept coming as a trio of redshirt freshmen, Nathan Jeffery, Laquintas Dowell and Josh Bell showcased their skills. This is the deepest group of running backs the Miners have rolled out in several years. Spring Grade: A Defense Defensively, the Miners wanted an improved pass rush, added depth at linebacker position, help at the corners and a potential starting safety. Defensive Line: Coach Patterson’s young defensive line showed improvement since the New Mexico Bowl, proving they have made good strides in developing a pass rush. Marcus Bagley, Germard Reed, Ruben Munoz and Jamie Fehoko lead a deep rotation at defensive tackle. Bernard Obi, Greg Watkins, Adam Ayala and James Davidson will give the Miners speed in the corner position. Spring Grade: B+ Linebackers: With Isaiah Carter, Jamie Irving, Royzell Smith and Greg Holleman sitting out the spring with injuries, it was good continued on page 10

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GRADING (CONTINUED) time for several young Miners and transfers to step up. Michael Pickett, A. J. Ropati, Josh Fely, Jeremy Springer and Aubrey Alexius all played well. From day one, it was clear they would take your head off in a heartbeat. This unit has the tenacity and depth to develop into a very intense unit this year. Spring Grade: ADefensive Backs: In the secondary, Travaun Nixon was converted to safety prior to his suspension and played well when he returned. Nixon and Deshawn Grayson are a solid team with Robert Spencer adding some much needed depth. At the corner, Antoine Blake, Adrian James, Drew Thomas and C. J. Haley had a productive spring. JUCO transfer Darren Woodard had a big spring prior to his injury. Spring Grade: C

Overall, Coach Price and staff have to be pleased with the progress the defense has made, the depth at linebacker and the promise at the corner and safety positions. Taking a step back, offensively Price hasn’t named a starting quarterback, the line is a work in progress, and Price is seeing dropped passes on a far too frequent basis. On a positive note, Price must like the competition and is most likely euphoric over his deep stable of backs. 66’s Take: The defense looks solid and the offense has a long way to go. In my opinion, the fortunes of the 2011 Miners’ season rest with the defense; something I thought I would never say with a Price coached team.

Enjoy the photos you see in every edition of Miner Illustrated Magazine? Would you like to get a copy of a specific cover for your collection at home? Don’t fret! A new and improved photo and cover gallery is coming soon to Miner Illustrated with reasonable pricing for prints and digital downloads.

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Summer is right around the corner and that means only one thing at Miner Illustrated: recruiting, recruiting, recruiting. Make sure to follow us during our summer online schedule (Monday - Friday) as we bring you the latest on who UTEP is looking at for the Class of 2012. And as always, we will bring you the best in news, opinion and analysis.

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THE FINAL WORD: BasketballAttendanceMoreThanJustGame JOSH PUGA After reviewing the NCAA’s report on the 2011 men’s basketball attendance, I must take a moment to give the fans some credit. Emphasis on “some.” The past season, the return of Tim Floyd provided a nice boost to attendance right off the bat as Miner fans stepped up in a big way with a sellout for Floyd’s first game as UTEP’s head coach in their unfortunate loss to Pacific. Sadly, that was the only official sellout of the year. Though the fans came close a few other times especially at the close of the season with the two Memphis home games (the regular season contest and the C-USA final), the fans just couldn’t fill the 12,222 seats in the Don Haskins Center. But as I delved into the numbers and dug around a bit, I found some good news. The Miners ranked 58th nationally with 8,697 fans per home game in 2010; UTEP improved to 51st in the nation with 8,959 fans per home game this past season, just behind 50th ranked Texas A&M (9,000 fans per game) . The almost nine thousand fans in attendance per game was higher than some notable NCAA teams such as Butler, VCU, Notre Dame, and UCLA. Not bad for a team that just missed the

“Big Dance.” In actuality, if not for some questionable advertising of the opening round games of the Legend’s Classic, where less than 6,000 fans showed up for home wins over Mercer and Western Carolina, UTEP would have easily cracked the top 50. Still, all in all those are pretty good numbers. It was definitely nice to see an improvement over the 2010 season. So what could be the bad news? As I stated earlier, the Don Haskins Center holds over 12,000 fans. I am not a math major by any means, but based on the numbers, there were a little over 3,000 empty seats per game and probably more with the no shows that purchased tickets. Except for a handful of games, the Don Haskins Center was right around 75% of its maximum capacity for most of UTEP’s home games. 75% is not good enough for the city of El Paso; a city that is home to almost 700,000 people with no major sports teams. The closest major professional sports team is the Arizona Cardinals, which is more than 400 miles away. No disrespect to the Rhinos, Diablos or UTEP football, but El Paso is and always will remain a UTEP basketball town. The legendary Don Haskins made sure of that. Every time I catch a nationally televised UTEP basketball game home or away, the commentators never fail to mention

Will you support UTEP basketball in 2011?. Steve Kaplowitz

Coach Haskins, and not only that, they always give credit to the knowledge the El Paso fans possess. Last month, my editor, Rebecca Frazier, wrote an editorial calling out the UTEP students, and while I agree 100% that the students need to support their school, they are only part of the problem. So what gives? I understand there are people in El Paso that didn’t graduate or attend UTEP so why would they want to go to a Miner basketball game. Heck, I graduated from the University of New Mexico, and while I was never a true Lobo fan because of my allegiance to the Miners, I still attended my fair share of Lobo games at “The Pit.” Some might argue, I attended the basketball games to support my school, and while I did to a certain degree, the number one reason I went was to see the best show in town that night. Like any college basketball game, you were going to have the students and alumni attending, but more often than not, the locals came out night after night to support the Lobos and the city of Albuquerque. My point is that you don’t have to be a student to enjoy two hours of college basketball. I know. It’s too hard to find parking. You don’t want to deal with the crowds. You can’t go because you have to work. Or who’s going to watch the kids? Excuses, excuses, excuses. I have heard them all, and look I am not suggesting people go to every single game, even season ticket holders miss some games here and there. All I am saying is that El Pasoans need to have a little more pride in their hometown team. Who knows you might have some fun and enjoy a Miner win all in the same night. After all, the last time I checked the men’s basketball team has only lost five games at the Don over the past two years. So why not give it a try? What have you got to lose?

signing OFF

Jeff Taylor

Miner Illustrated Magazine; Vol 1, Issue 15  
Miner Illustrated Magazine; Vol 1, Issue 15  

Recapping the 2011 Softball Season; Doling out Spring Football Grades; The Final Word