Aug. 9, 2012
Albuquerque, N.M. --- The Lobos are the two-time defending Mountain West soccer champions, and New Mexico was picked to win the title again in a poll of the eight league coaches, as the MW released the official preseason poll today, with the Lobos on top. The Lobos collected five first-place votes and 46 total points, edging San Diego State which had 44 points and two first-place votes.
Mountain West newcomer Fresno State received the other first-place vote and was picked third, totaling 35 points. Rounding out the poll was UNLV (4th, 31 points), Wyoming (5th, 28), Boise State (6th, 18), Air Force (7th, 12) and the other new team to the conference, Nevada (8th, 10).
"I'm flattered that five of the coaches voted for us to come in first," said head coach Kit Vela. "It's a reflection of what we've done the last few years but now we need to live up to those standards. The Mountain West is a great conference and every game is going to be a battle."
New Mexico returns 14 letterwinners and seven starters from a 2011 squad that swept the MW regular-season and tournament crowns en route to a second-straight NCAA appearance. Heading up the list of 2012 returnees for 12th-year head coach Kit Vela is senior goalkeeper Kelli Cornell, the 2010 and 2011 MW Defensive Player of the Year. The Lobos finished the 2011 campaign with a 12-5-4 overall record (4-0-2 in MW play) and earned the league's automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.
The Lobos had a school record 11-match undefeated streak snapped in the NCAA College Cup in a tight 1-0 loss to UCLA in the opening round. The Lobos have gone undefeated in Mountain West play in each of the last two years, going 4-0-2 last year after a 5-0-2 season in 2010. Dating back to 2009, UNM is undefeated in its last 14 MW games, going 10-0-4, outscoring its opponents 30-6.
San Diego State finished in second place in the regular season last year, but lost in the conference semifinals to Wyoming. UNM defeated the Cowgirls 2-0 in the conference championship game, ironically scoring two goals about as far apart in regulation as a team can. In that game, returning senior Natalie Jenks scored just 19 seconds into the game, and then Jennifer Williams scored with four seconds left to ice it.
Among the other returning starters for New Mexico, along with Cornell and Jenks are backline anchors Lauren Irwin and Liz Nare, who both started all 21 games and played nearly every minute (Irwin played 1,983 of 1,996 minutes, while Nare played 1,933 minutes). While Jenks is the leading returning scorer with 11 points on four goals and three assists, senior Rachel Montoya also brings plenty of fire power with three goals and four assists from a year ago.
All eight MW teams will be in action when the Mountain West kicks off its 14th season of women's soccer competition on Friday, August 17.
2012 Mountain West Women's Soccer Preseason Poll
Pl. Team (1st place votes) Points
1. New Mexico (5) 46
2. San Diego State (2) 44
3. Fresno State (1) 35
4. UNLV 31
5. Wyoming 28
6. Boise State 18
7. Air Force 12
8. Nevada 10