Nov. 24, 2007
The University of New Mexico men's soccer team dropped a 1-0 match to UCLA in the opening round of the 2007 NCAA Tournament in Los Angeles, Calif., tonight. The Bruins scored on a free-kick in the 89th minute to end the Lobos season.
After winning their fourth consecutive Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title, the Lobos, at 12-4-2 and ranked 24th in the nation, were sent on the road for the first round against a Bruin team that had posted an 8-8-3 record against tough competition. Both teams came out in tonight's game feeling each other out in the opening minutes until junior Jack Smithson broke the ice with a shot in the ninth minute.
UCLA came right back on the ensuing goal kick and penetrated down the left side for a shot in the 11th minute. Michael Stephens attempt forced UNM keeper Mike Graczyk to make one of his two saves on the night. The best opportunity of the first period came in the 31st minute when Lobo sophomore Justin Davis took a feed from senior Diego Barrera on the left side. He blasted a shot from 25 yards out that just went over the crossbar.
UCLA went into the locker room with a 6-3 shot advantage, but the score was still tied at 0-0. After the break, the Lobos started to pick up the pace, controlling more of the play and creating some dangerous opportunities in the second frame.
Sophomore P.J. Wilson sent in a cross from the left side just four minutes into the second half that was headed back to the middle by Davis. A Bruin defender tried to clear the ball, but senior David Gualdarama volleyed a shot from 30 yards out that again just went over the crossbar.
With 36 minutes left in the match, Barrera took UNM's second of two corners. It looked as if he had found junior Chris Wright open in front of the net, but Wright couldn't get a touch on the ball before it got past him.
New Mexico's only shot on goal in the match came in the 73rd minute. Barrera picked up a loose ball on the Bruins' half of the field and tried to chip a shot past UCLA keeper Brian Perk. Perk was able to get a hand on the attempt and kept the Lobos off the scoreboard.
UCLA's scoring play started with 2:22 left on the clock when Kyle Nakazawa was fouled just outside of the Lobo box. He bent a shot around the UNM wall to the near post that Graczyk had no chance of stopping. UNM was unable to get the equalizing goal in the final 90 second of play.
The Lobos end the season with a 12-5-2 mark, making their sixth NCAA Tournament appearance in seven seasons. It is the first time in six trips to the NCAA Tournament that UNM has been knocked out in the opening round.
UNM's senior class of Mike Graczyk, Joey Vitagliano, Blake Danaher, Diego Barrera and David Gualdarama ended their careers night. This quintet of Lobos is the first class to win four conference titles and the only group to go to the NCAA Tournament each year of their careers.
"This senior class was incredible," stated UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein. "They were warriors and gave it their all each time they took the field. We certainly didn't plan for it to end this way, but they had very successful careers and will be missed.