Aug. 26, 2009
Lobo Women's Soccer
What: UNLV Nike Classic
Friday: Lobos vs. Cal-State Bakersfield, 5:30 p.m. (MT)
Sunday: Lobos vs. Illinois State, 11:30 p.m. (MT)
Online: Gametracker, results on GoLobos.com
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
Lobo women's soccer coach Kit Vela is having a slumber party. Sort of.
Her University of New Mexico players will pack up their shorts, cleats, hopes and dreams, jump on a plane and hang out almost exclusively as a team for several days in Las Vegas. Yeah, Sin City is a good place to bond.
And then the Lobos will do it again a few days later only this time they will jump on a bus and head to a less glamorous destination in Flagstaff, Ariz.
The Lobos will be looking for a win or two or four, but the bonding stuff also is a priority for Vela and her young squad of Lobos. Oh, the Lobos won't be standing over the oven roasting smores (We don't think), but there will be a lot of together time wedged around the soccer time.
"We like going on the road," said Vela. "It's a great way to acclimate the younger players as to what the team is about. It introduces them to this whole other level of college ball. We are together a lot and we do a few fun things. There are no distractions and there is a lot of bonding."
The bonding and the chemistry is important to any athletic team, but there is a bit of urgency this season for Vela's Lobos since her program brought in 11 freshmen for the 2009 season.
These Lobos also are talented enough to make some noise in the Mountain West Conference chase and Vela is trying to quickly puzzle together her 33 Lobos.
The good part about these two trips is all that quality time spent together on plane, bus, field and in hotel rooms. The bad part about the trip is the NCAA allows only 22 on a traveling party. That means 11 Lobos stay at home.
"It's tough to leave girls at home and that sounds like a lot," said Vela. "But when you leave a good chunk at home like this they hang out together and they train together. You probably feel more singled out if there are only two or three of you staying back."
"We have some young kids who can really play and we are taking a close look at them," said Vela.
The Lobos' stop in Vegas is this Friday, Saturday and Sunday (Aug. 28-30) at the UNLV Nike Classic. The Lobos (1-0-0) will battle Cal State Bakersfield (2-0-0) at 5:30 p.m. (MT) on Friday and play Illinois State (0-1-) at 11:30 p.m. (MT) on Sunday. Bakersfield is coming off a 2-1 upset over No. 13 San Diego. The Lobos play Oakland on Sept. 4 and Iowa on Sept. 6 at Northern Arizona's invite in Flagstaff.
"Our non-conference schedule is not easy, but we want to be pushed," said Vela. "I don't think kids want to go to schools that don't play good competition. We also want to play good teams so we are better prepared for conference."
The Lobos notched their win 2-0 over Idaho State at the UNM Soccer Complex this past Friday. UNM got goals from Jennifer Williams and Jess Quador. The Lobos dominated the first half against the Bengals, but backed off a bit in the second half allowing the Bengals a few scary shots-on-goal.
"I wasn't unhappy with the game," said Vela. "I was just disappointed that we didn't have a stronger second half. There was more of a drop off in the second half than I wanted to see.
"I actually expect us to play better in the second half. We're out here to get better and you don't want to see a half go by without taking better advantage of the opportunity.
"I'm looking forward to these two road trips. We play good teams, but you also look to the road to build team chemistry, figure out combinations and develop consistency. You also want the bonding. I still believe a team with good team chemistry will beat a team of individuals or at team that looks too much to superstars."