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Wednesday, September 18, 2019

Soccer

Soccer looks toward improvement in new season


UH soccer Junior midfielder Mia Brascia is among veteran players returning to the team in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Junior midfielder Mia Brascia is among veteran players returning to UH soccer in 2019. | Trevor Nolley/The Cougar

Coming off a 3-0 victory in its first exhibition match of the season against Houston Baptist, Houston heads into its Aug. 22 season-opening away matchup against Sam Houston State, striving toward the next step in contending for a spot in the American Athletic Conference Championship Tournament.

That feat that has eluded the team in recent years.

Last season saw the Cougars go 7-10-2 overall, with seven games heading into overtime and five games resulting in a one-goal difference.

Led by head coach Diego Bocanegra, UH showed competitiveness at home last season, going 5-3 in tight matches played at the Carl Lewis Complex.

The road proved to be a tougher challenge for Houston, going 2-7-2 while being outscored 12-23 in those games.

This will be the Cougars’ third season under Bocanegra since his arrival in 2016, and the team has progressed to better records than seasons prior.

They now look to take that extra step and contend for a spot in the postseason.

Houston has players returning from last season who now have one more year of experience under their belt.

Twenty-three out of 31 players will be returning, giving the team a touch of veteran leadership to help the incoming freshmen make their mark.

Senior forward Desiree Bowen, junior forward Jazmin Grant and junior midfielder Mia Brascia are all returnees, who, in their respective ways, filled up the stat sheet with a combined 14 goals and nine assists that took UH just a tiebreaker away from reaching the postseason tournament last season for the first time since 2014.

Sophomore midfielder Reid Morrison and sophomore forward Natalie Anderson return after completing their first full season of collegiate soccer last season, and the pair are off to a hot start in 2019.

Morrison scored two goals in the exhibition match against HBU, both of which were assisted by Anderson.

Some key matchups for UH heading into this season include an Oct. 6 matchup at home against reigning ACC regular-season champion UCF, which ran the conference table with an 8-1 record last season, with its only loss coming from Memphis.

On Oct. 24, the Cougars will face the Tigers, the reigning AAC tournament champion, in a game down the stretch that, much like the two teams’ meeting last season, can hold much significance in the AAC playoff race.

Awaiting Houston on the last day of the regular season is an Oct. 31 matchup at SMU, which handed UH a season-ending 3-0 loss to eliminate it from AAC Tournament contention at the last game of conference play last season.

The cross-state rivals have met in the last three regular season finales, with the Mustangs besting the Cougars in each by a combined score of 7-1.

The 2019 season holds a lot of promise for Houston. With the yearly improvements and late season stretches that it has made in recent campaigns, the Cougars are built and experienced enough to make a run and push for a spot in the postseason tournament.

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