Nov. 25, 2012
STORRS, Conn. - The University of New Mexico men's soccer program traveled to the University of Connecticut (17-3-1) for their third round match of the NCAA Tournament looking for the program's second-ever Elite Eight appearance in program history. The Lobos lost in the Sweet 16 for a second-consecutive season after dropping a 2-1 decision to UConn in double overtime.
New Mexico held a 1-0 halftime lead courtesy of a Devon Sandoval goal, but they conceded an equalizer 31 minutes into the second half before giving up a golden goal in the 105th minute of action.
"We knew it was going to be a game with two good teams that are committed to playing soccer with quality players, special attacking players and good defenses. It was going to be a matter of taking chances and limiting mistakes. It was an unfortunate way to lose the game. We had a lot of chances to win the game, so it was a tough way to end the season, but we lost to a good, proud team that was committed to playing soccer," commented Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein after the match.
The match took a back-and-forth pace to open for the first half an hour of play. The Huskies missed wide left on a shot and a header on their first two scoring attempts of the match. New Mexico's timing was off just a bit as a Ben McKendry pass to James Rogers deep into the box was broken by a sliding Andrew Blake, the Huskies' goalkeeper.
McKendry recorded the match's first shot on goal in the 30th minute when his left-footed shot from the top edge of the box rolled into the arms of the UConn keeper. Yet New Mexico's next shot would prove to be more than effective.
The scoring action began with a Michael Calderon run down the left side of the field. As he penetrated into the box he attempted a shot that was saved by Blake. The ball bounced along the edge of the box where Devon Sandoval put it home for his 15th goal of the season. Sandoval's goal in the 32nd minute gave New Mexico the one-goal advantage.
UConn nearly scored an equalizer within the first 30 seconds of the second half as the Huskies' Nicholas Zuniga forced a split-second reaction save from Victor Rodriguez. It was the beginning of an active initial two minutes of the half that saw the two teams take a combined seven shots.
The Huskies threatened again in the 63rd minute when a cross whistled through the UNM box just missing the heads of three different players. New Mexico countered to Blake Smith who took a Ben McKendry pass on a breakaway and drew out Andre Blake. Smith slipped a rolling shot past the UConn keeper from outside the box. The ball rolled towards a potential second goal before a UConn defender raced in and cleared the ball out moments before the ball crossed the inline.
Mamadou Doudou Diouf gave UConn the equalizer in the 76th minute off a deep cross from Max Wasserman. Wasserman's high cross was headed once to Diouf who headed it a second time for his 15th goal of the season.
The game went back-and-forth for the following twelve minutes until freshman Ben McKendry nearly tallied a dramatic game-winning goal in the 88th minute. McKendry tracked down a cross perfectly and just missed making contact right in front of the goal at the end of his run.
At the end of regulation, the statistics showed just how even the first 90 minutes were. New Mexico led in shots 13-12 and the corner kicks were tied at three.
The only shot taken in the first overtime was by New Mexico's James Rogers. The sophomore took a shot from the top of the box that sailed just above the crossbar. The match went on to double overtime where the next shot taken was UConn's golden goal.
Nicholas Zuniga, who had missed high on two previous shot in the box, gathered a long pass on a breakaway and slotted home the goal into the lower left corner for the game winner just over four minutes into the second overtime.
"It's always difficult to end your season and to do so in that fashion. I am really appreciative of our team and our seniors... It was a tough way to lose but there's the utmost respect for this program (UConn). The UConn players were class act and so was the coaching staff and that's all you can really ask for," Coach Fishbein acknowledged.
With the loss, New Mexico's 2012 season officially comes to a close with a final record of 17-4-1. They made the program's fourth Sweet 16 appearance and their second in as many years. They tied a program record for 35 wins in a two-season span, which matched the mark set by the 2004 and 2005 teams.
Sunday's loss was also the final game of six seniors' college careers. Blake Smith, Devon Sandoval, Victor Rodriguez, Levi Rossi, Travis Campbell and Nik Robson will all leave the program after doing their part to help the team match its best two-year performance in school history.