July 12, 2012
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
You have to label Kit Vela's Lobos as one of the "surging" programs at the University of New Mexico. Her Lobos threw out a first in 2010 by surging into the NCAA playoffs via an at-large invite to play with the big girls of soccer.
In the fall of 2011, it got better. Vela's Lobos not only roared to the regular-season crown in the Mountain West but they added the Mountain's tournament title which brought with it an automatic NCAA bid.
It was the Lobos first ever Mountain West tournament title and the program's first ever automatic bid. The Lobos earned the league's bid with a 2-0 win over Wyoming at Lobo Field.
The Lobos violated the Wyoming net 19 seconds into the match on a quick strike that ended with Natalie Jenks heading a cross from Jael Fanning. The Lobos added an open-net goal from tourney MVP Jennifer Williams in the final minute.
The Lobos carried a 12-4-4 mark into postseason play, a record that included a string of 11 consecutive games without a loss. Vela credited much of the success to her special seniors: Gianna Cavuoto, Amanda Collins, Jordan Craig, Jael Fanning, Roxie McFarland, Jennifer Williams and Zaneta Wyne.
This senior class gave us everything it had," said Vela. "They left us a foundation to take the next step. We are proud of what they accomplished as individuals and as a team; how they helped make us a better program."
Williams repeated in 2011 as the Mountain West Offensive Player of The Year. Keeper Kelli Cornell, a senior-to-be, was the league's Defensive Player of The Year. The Lobos won a NSCAA Team Academic Award for the fifth straight year and led Mountain West soccer with a 3.48 GPA. Williams made the NSCAA All-Pacific Region team. Jael Fanning earned a $7,500 post-graduate scholarship from the NCAA.
There was Lobo success on a lot of levels.
"These girls showed discipline, dedication and a high work ethic both on the field and in the classroom," said Vela. "These characteristics are a core strength of our program."
Of course, it's always a goal of any program to win conference titles and advance to postseason play. But program's that achieve also are rewarded in another way - recruiting. Vela's Lobos are now a Southwest hot spot for soccer players looking to play soccer at a high level in a "family-like" atmosphere.
And there are trophies to be won, too.
Previously in the Top 12 Series: