Nov. 4, 2010
Lobo Women's Soccer - at Mountain West Tournament - San Diego
Thursday: Lobos 2, UNLV 1 (2OT); BYU 2, SDSU 0
Saturday: Lobos Vs. BYU, 1 p.m. -- MWC Championship
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
SAN DIEGO, Calif. -- It's really how it should be and, really, it doesn't get any better than this. You got No. 1 vs. No. 2 for all the marbles.
You got the two best teams in the Mountain West Conference, New Mexico and Brigham Young, battling for the 2010 title and the automatic NCAA berth that falls into the winners' lap.
For the loser, they can pretty much bank on an NCAA at-large bid since the two teams that pounded their way to the top of the regular season -- Lobos No. 1! -- also pounded their way to Saturday's championship game of the MWC Tournament.
For the No. 24-ranked Lobos, the regular-season champs who are still undefeated against all MWC competition, they probably sealed an at-large bid by pushing into the title game.
The Cougars, ranked throughout the 2010 season, probably did the same thing by slapping down San Diego State 2-0 on Thursday and joining UNM in the title game.
So, the pressure might be off Lobos and Cougars when it comes to postseason play, but that doesn't mean Saturday's title game won't be hotly contested. There is a trophy on the line. There is a pride factor. There are two teams that like to go at each other.
You can also bet the Cougars haven't forgot their loss to UNM in Albuquerque.
You can't deny the "lucky" factor that finally graced the Lobos in their dramatic 2-1 double-overtime win over UNLV in the semifinals of the MWC Tournament Thursday afternoon.
But it was about time the tourney's No. 1 seed and the regular-season champ got a break against the hard-fighting Rebs. The Lobos had chance after chance in the second half to put the soccer ball in the back of the UNLV net, but failed to finish.
The Lobos were unlucky for a long time, but sometimes hard work and perseverance helps create luck.
That payoff came in the second overtime when Brooke Ellison booted a high, lazy pop fly toward UNLV's freshman keeper Kylie Wassell, who moved out to make the easy catch.
The Vegas rookie muffed the catch and the ball rolled over to Lobo Kate Wyrick, who had opportunistically placed herself in front of the UNLV net.
Wyrick didn't panic. She let the ball settle a bit and then blasted it past a final Reb defender, who tried in vain to block the shot with her right foot. Wyrick's unassisted goal at 106:40 ended it.
"It's a crazy game," said Lobo coach Kit Vela, the 2010 MWC Coach of The Year. "Wyrick had a big-time goal."
If the Lobos needed a final stamp to push into their first NCAA Tournament, the win over Vegas probably was it. UNM can earn the conference's automatic bid with a win in Saturday's championship game, but an at-large bid probably is safely tucked away for these 12-1-5 Lobos.
"You want it so badly," said Vela. "You have nerves and you lose your rhythm. We didn't play very well in the first half."
The Lobos dominated the scoreboard and the stats' sheet with 18 shots to 12 for UNLV. UNM had eight shots on goal to five for the Rebs.
The Lobos and UNLV marched into the break in a 1-1 deadlock. UNLV scored on a sharp header by Caitlin Allen at the 10:58 mark. It was her first score of the season. UNM tied the game when Natalie Jenks out battled a Reb defender to poke the ball past Wassell at the 43:43 mark of the first half.
Vela said the message to her No. 24-ranked Lobos at the half was, "We told them, `Play. What do you have to lose? ` We just could not find our rhythm. I think we wanted it too badly and sometimes that's not a good thing.
"New Mexico is so proud of these girls. It's been a great ride this fall and here we are."
The Lobos are knocking on the door of a MWC tourney title to go along with their regular-season crown. The Lobos also are hammering on the NCAA door. This program has never played in the NCAA postseason.
The two teams exhausted 90 minutes of regulation time with nothing settled in a 1-1 tie that marched into overtime. Ten minutes later the two teams marched into a second overtime, thanks to UNM keeper Kelli Cornell making a last-second, diving save on a cross that was heading toward an open Reb in front of the net.
The Lobos were shocked early and fell into a 1-0 hole.
A UNLV corner kick off Sarah Naranjo's toe cleared the pack in front of Cornell. The Rebels' Allen moved in on the high kick and put her head sharply on the ball. Cornell floated across the mouth of the net moving from her right to her left.
Allen's header caught Cornell moving, but there wasn't much the UNM keep could do as the header found the high, far corner of the UNM net, back to Cornell's right side.
The Lobos tied the game at 1-all on some nice one-on-two work by Jenks. First Jenks slid past two Reb defenders and was chasing down the ball on the right side of the UNLV net. Another Reb defender was there to clear the ball, but Jenks managed to block the kick with her right foot and the ball died between the Reb defender and the UNLV keeper.
Jenks fought off a hold and beat the Reb defender to the ball as Wassell moved out to defend. Jenks stabbed out with a quick touch and poked the ball past Wassell's right side. Jenks began celebrating the score before the ball even made it into the net.
The Lobos had several good chances to win this game in regulation time during the second half.
Lobo Jennifer Williams got a nice feed from Jenks, but had a too-heavy first touch in front of the UNLV goal. The ball popped a bit too much in front of Williams as she made her run at the net. Williams managed to slide and got a light touch on the ball with her right foot, but the UNLV keeper was there to make the save.
Williams had even a better chance to finish and give UNM a 2-1 lead in the 35th minute of the second half. Williams received a lead pass in full sprint and spit two UNLV defenders.
The Lobos' leading scorer had ball control and she bore down on the UNLV keeper. The Reb keeper came out and slid hard at Williams' feet, leaving the far side of the net wide open. Williams flicked a shot at that gap, but missed wide left.
Williams wasn't through attacking. At 21:10 she took another pass in full flight and got a solid left foot on the ball as the Vegas keeper came out again. Wassell made a nice slide into the ball and Williams had to jump over Wassell's sliding body. Williams came down hard and stayed down for several minutes.
Williams limped off the field at the 21:04 mark and never returned to the pitch. The score was still knotted at 1-1.
The score stayed that way into double overtime. Then Wyrick got the golden goal and UNM got a berth in the MWC tourney title game.