Oct. 21, 2012
Albuquerque, N.M. --- For nearly 70 minutes, the script was all wrong for the University of New Mexico. Then just like Hollywood, the seniors came through on Senior Day, and rode off with a happy ending, in this case a dramatic 2-1 win over Wyoming thanks to a last minute senior connection on the game-winning goal.
Stephanie Rowe is who goes down the hero, as her header over a defender and into the upper corner with just 1:08 on the clock gave UNM a 2-1 victory, sending UNM's seven seniors out on a winning home note. Rowe was set up by Rachel Montoya, a fellow senior, who was visibly moved after the game as the emotions got the better of many of the 1,282 in attendance.
The day started off with a ceremony honoring Rowe, Montoya, Kelli Cornell, Jordan Craig, Lauren Irwin, Sinead Fleming, and Natalie Jenks, and the emotions of that spilled out onto the pitch, as UNM peppered Wyoming keeper Courtney Merkle with shot after shot in the opening 20 minutes. Rachel Montoya hammered a shot on net in the opening 15 seconds, and it stayed that way, with the Lobos posting 10 shots in the opening 17:28 of the game.
However, it went horribly wrong at the 24:34 mark, when Olivia Mohtadi stole a ball outside the box, and then chipped one over a helpless Cornell into the back corner of the net, and it was 1-0 Wyoming.
UNM couldn't tie before halftime, and it looked like UNM did tie the game with 32 minutes left when Montoya's service into the box was knocked in off a rebound by Natalie Jenks, but the ball deflected off her arm before going in, and the goal was wiped out. Jenks a few moments later had a header that just went wide, as she was thorn in Wyoming's side with five shots.
Needing a break, a bounce, anything, UNM finally got it with 20:09 left when Elba Holguin found Jordan Craig at the top of the box. Craig played a ball quickly to Montoya on the right side, who took a touch and put a seemingly harmless, if not hard shot low on net. Merkle went down and got a piece of it, but the momentum of the ball spun it over her, and it rolled into the net for the tying goal, Montoya's fifth of the year.
It was Cornell's turn to come up big on senior day just minutes later with nine to go when Liz O'Reilly ripped a shot from 18-yards out, put Cornell dove far to her right and stopped the low liner that was ticketed for the lower corner. Despite the lone goal allowed, Cornell teamed with senior defenders Lauren Irwin and Sinead Fleming in limiting Wyoming to just a few opportunities.
Then, with the clock ticking down, it was Montoya and Rowe to the rescue, rewriting a potential horror story into a fairy-tale ending. Montoya got a ball on the right side and dribbled into space before serving a ball between the penalty spot and the six. Rowe climbed the ladder and got a header on it over two defenders, leaving Merkle no chance except to turn and watch and pray it hit the woodwork as she dove.
It didn't. Rowe's shot went right into the upper corner, touching off a raucous celebration as 1:08 showed on the clock. It was in effect a sudden-death goal, and it gave UNM the 2-1 win, marking the second time this season UNM has comeback after trailing at the half.
Even better for UNM, the win coupled with Boise State's 1-1 tie with UNLV and Fresno State's 0-0 tie with Nevada means the Lobos clinched the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Tournament. San Diego State defeated Air Force 3-0 to clinch the regular season title. UNM could finish in a tie with Boise State, but UNM owns the tiebreak by virtue of its 1-0 win on September 28.
The Lobos have one more game left, and that's a now inconsequential game against San Diego State, at least in terms of seeding, as both teams have byes into the Mountain West semifinals. However, it will be UNM's best shot to get a highly ranked win and improve their RPI, as San Diego State is ranked No. 6 nationally.
NOTES: Montoya and Rowe each lead the team with five goals ... UNM dominated in shots 23-10 , and 7-3 on net ... Brianna Webster, who left Friday's game with an injury, was held out as a precaution, with Alexis Leyba starting in her place ... UNM has now gone 13 consecutive home games without a loss, going 11-0-2, extending UNM's school record ... it marked the second time in three season UNM finished the home season without a loss, going 6-0-0 in 2010 ... UNM is 20-1-3 in the last 24 at home ... The Lobos have recorded at least 10 wins in four straight seasons, and the team clinched its eighth straight winning record ... Rowe now leads the team with three game-winning goals ... the Lobos averaged 1,781 fans per game this season.