April 29, 2013
Albuquerque, N.M. --- Under 13th year head coach Kit Vela, the New Mexico Lobos have never really shied away from playing stellar competition. However, in 2013, Vela just might have outdone herself in the scheduling department, as a match with the 2012 national champion North Carolina Tar Heels highlights a challenging 20-game schedule that will see the Lobos play five NCAA Tournament teams, as well as teams from the ACC, the Big 12, Conference USA and the Big 10.
The team will also play a minimum of 10 home games, plus host the 2013 Mountain West Tournament. The Lobos will enter the 2013 season with a school-record 13-match unbeaten streak at home, going 10-0-3 over that span. UNM went undefeated last year at the UNM Soccer Complex and is 20-1-3 over the last 24 home matches.
The highlight of the schedule is undoubtedly the meeting with North Carolina, which comes as a part of the North Carolina Classic, hosted on the UNC campus. The Lobos will face off with the defending champions on Friday, August 30 before playing the Duke Blue Devils at UNC on Sunday morning. UNC went 15-5-3 in winning it's 22 national title in the last 31 years, and Duke went 15-6-2, advancing to the Elite Eight in the NCAA College Cup last year.
"One of the great things about our successes is that now the top programs in the nation will play us," said Vela. "Last year we went to play Florida and Georgia and the year before Florida State and Alabama. These games all help us get ready for what will be a bigger and stronger Mountain West."
Along with the North Carolina Tournament, UNM will take place in two other tournaments, traveling to Moraga, California for the St. Mary's Classic where UNM will face host St. Mary's and Pacific. UNM will also host the Jack in the Box Classic, hosting UC Santa Barbara and UC Davis. The fourth team in the Jack in the Box Classic is Texas Tech, which will be UNM's season opening opponent.
That season opener will test UNM immediate, as Tech went 16-6-1 last year in advancing to the NCAA's Second Round. UNM will then travel for the annual Rio Grande Rivalry match with New Mexico State.
UNM's other non conference home matches will also be difficult affairs, hosting Rice and Michigan State on Sept. 6 and 8. Rice won the Conference USA regular season title, and Michigan State plays in the always challenging Big Ten.
Once it gets to conference play, it doesn't get easier, but it certainly got longer as the league has expanded to 11 teams with new conference members San Jose State and Utah State on the docket, along with Colorado State, which has added women's soccer. Utah State was the WAC champion last year and lost in the NCAA's First Round.
The Lobos will open league play with San Jose State on Sept. 27 and Fresno State on Sept. 29 before playing three straight road games in Colorado and Wyoming. UNM will then host Nevada and UNLV before hitting the northern part of the Mountain West with road games at Utah State and at Boise State. The Lobos end the season with San Diego State, the team that ended UNM's three-peat hopes last year and made it to the NCAA's Sweet 16, going 21-2-1.
UNM will then host the Mountain West Tournament Nov. 5-10, with eight of the 11 squads qualifying in a new format. The First Round will see games pitting the five-seed against the eight-seed and the six-seed vs. the seven-seed. Those winners will face off with the three and four seed the next day. After an off day, the winners play the one and two-seeds in the semifinals, with the championship on Sunday.
"This format makes the conference tournament schedule even more challenging for all," said Vela.
Vela added, "The Mountain West continues to get stronger, which is why we are playing the non-conference schedule that we are. You add in San Jose State, Utah State and Colorado State to the great teams we already had in our league, and it just continues to improve."