Lobos Look To Make Strides During Spring Season
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  01/28/2005
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Jan. 28, 2005

Head coach Kit Vela is no stranger to coaching a young team. Since becoming the third head coach at the University of New Mexico in 2000, she has been working from the ground up to build a winning tradition out of a program that was unaccustomed to success. This spring, the UNM women's soccer team, under the guidance of Vela, looks forward to building a winning culture in the program and changing tradition by training hard and developing into stronger players. The Lobos are still young, but Vela said she sees plenty of potential for New Mexico to be a winning team. She recently sat down to talk about this spring season, team goals and the positive future of UNM women's soccer.

Approaching the spring season where is the team now and where do you hope them to be by the end of the spring?

KV: We are more mature now than we were in the fall. The nice thing for this spring is this is the nucleus of our team. We're bringing in a tremendous freshmen class next fall with the three that we are signing this February and we have another three to four pending that are going to be really good for the team if they decide to sign. This will be the first time since we've been here, in four years where what we are doing in the spring is going to have a big impact on the fall because these are the players that are going to play next fall. We may supplement the starting group next fall with maybe one or two freshmen. They have the ability to start, but the nice thing is they won't have to and so we are not going to take these incoming freshmen and throw them to the dogs. They can grow with the program in the first month or so and if they are starting by midseason great and if they're not that's okay too. We are going to have more depth and this spring is going to catapult us into next fall, which is the first time in four years we can say that.

What are your main goals for the spring season, what are you hoping to work on?

KV: More team chemistry which, by the end of last season, we certainly did have. The girls get along great, but on the field a better understanding of our style of play which, again at the end of last season, we were getting to that point because it was a growing year and we knew it was going to be. So in the spring the goals are to get a better idea about each other and to get a better idea of the system of play against other systems. It's a learning spring from top to bottom. Every player has got to learn and we are going to do a lot more classroom work because we can. It's not going to be a waste of time because these are the players that are going to play next fall.

What is the schedule like in the spring?

KV: The first three weeks are eight hour weeks of non-traditional strength and conditioning with small group training. After that we go into team training and we'll be training four to five times a week, a variety of different things, shorter sessions with more purpose. It will be more team oriented functional training where our defenders are going to get to know each other better within the midfielders and within the forwards. We are going to put all three together now and we'll go all the way to end of April with that. There are five playing dates. We're traveling to Texas A&M to play them and Oklahoma, traveling to Southern California to play three Southern Cal Division I teams. The schedule is still tentative and then we'll have two other playing dates that we already have scheduled here in Albuquerque.

Looking back on the 2004 fall season, what do you think the team gained from that experience?

KV: Maturity. Mostly maturity, getting to know each other. We're building a culture here. Cultures of winning don't come over night. We had to come in here and try to change it as fast as we can, but really the speed of changing things that have been around for a long time takes four to five years. So the culture now is that we have players that love to play, they just want to play and we want to take the spring and say `okay you love to play, then let's really love it, let's learn, let's get more soccer savvy so when we get to next fall there's details that we need to clean up, but not as much.' I think the group needs another year to gain more maturity to see that they can play against anybody, but it's not about who we are playing against, it's about how we come out to play and we showed that over and over again. We played some very good teams last fall that we maybe were a little afraid of, weren't sure if we could do it, and we came out of the games saying `we could've won, we should've won.' Now I think we learned that we can beat teams if we bring our best everyday. We can't afford to get out there and think we're just going to beat them. Women's soccer is so competitive. I think they have in their head now that they have to learn to compete every single day and if they do that, good things will happen.

Head coach Kit Vela

What does the UNM women's soccer program pride itself on?

KV: Hard work. Working hard for 90 minutes. I think anybody's scouting report on us is win, lose or draw they will play hard for 90 minutes, and that's a good culture. We're happy with that, but now we've got to take that and say `okay we're not just going to work hard now, we've got to find ways to win.' We're playing good competition and they're not just going to let you win. We want to take that hard work and get something for it.

Can you talk about the new practice fields and what the university is doing to give soccer a better area for training?

KV:Right now they have already started it, but come May they're going to actually overhaul our entire training facility. They're putting in a whole new watering system and all new grass. It's going to be a pure soccer environment. I think it's going to be a great advantage for us to have that ability to have two full fields for training. That's big for us. And to couple that with what they've done for our game facility in the last four years, I think soccer is going to be big.

Kit Vela with husband and assistant coach Jorge Vela

It sounds like the team carried over its hard work into the classroom, earning a team GPA of 3.49 for the fall season. Can you talk a little about the team's dedication as student-athletes?

KV:The team earned that GPA while on the road and while we were competing. I told the girls if we can do it on the field and do it in the classroom in four years they are going to be better people anyway because those are the things that are going to propel them into good futures. They can do it in the classroom and they are close to doing it on the field. We want to keep both of those going. We're so close to turning that corner on the field. It's just finding that winning edge. So the team is starting to win in the classroom and I know we can start to win on the field.

Final Quote from coach Vela:

We're just excited. We're excited about this group. We're going to be deeper next fall and more athletic. We just have to continue to build that winning culture. These girls love to play. We just have to take that, really harness it, and go forth.

Monday, August 17
7:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Fort Lewis (exhibition)
Friday, August 21
5:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
at USC vs. Texas Tech
7:30 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Florida State
Sunday, August 23
10:30 AM - 
Women's Soccer
at USC vs. Florida State
1:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Texas Tech
Wednesday, August 26
6:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
at New Mexico State
Sunday, August 30
1:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
at Colorado