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STEVENS: Lobos Long Journey Toward Success Starts With Bengals
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/20/2009
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 20, 2009

Lobo Women's Soccer
What:
Lobos vs. Idaho State Bengals
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Where: UNM Soccer Complex
Online: GameTracker; Live Broadcast on GoLobos.com

"They have lite a fire under us and we are going to work that much harder to prove them wrong." -- Senior Jess Quador.

By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

Yeah, there's a chip on the collective shoulders of Kit Vela's Lobos. Yeah, the Lobos will have to wait awhile until they can brush that chip away against the non-believers in the Mountain West Conference.

"We think a preseason poll is just that, a preseason poll," said Lobo senior Veronika Strnadova.

Said senior Jess Quador: "We're not happy. They don't know what they have started."

Sure, it's a good thing the University of New Mexico Lobos women's soccer team is fired up to prove wrong the preseason MWC poll that predicted the Lobos would finish sixth in the league race.

The Lobos are motivated. They believe in themselves and their talent. They're willing to work extra hard. However, they also need to be a bit patient.

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2009 UNM ROSTER
Seniors
Jess Quador-MF/D
V. Strnadova-MF

Juniors
Alexis Ball-MF/F
Kate Wyrick-F
Rachel Fields-MF
Elizabeth Lambert-D
Kerrin Stephan-MF/F
Katie McKernan-F
M. Bodenheimer-D

Sophomores
Jennifer Williams-F
Nicole Reed-MF
Roxie McFarland-D
Jael Fanning-MF
Gianna Cavuoto-MF
Jordan Craig-F
Amanda Collins-MF
Zaneta Wyne-MF
C. Carpenter-D

Freshmen
Sidney George-GK
*Kelli Cornell-GK
R. Montoya-MF/F
Sinead Fleming-D
*Natalie Jenks-F
Chandler Guetz-M
Lauren Irwin-D
S. Rowe-MF/F
Ashley Espinoza-MF
Shelby Luna-D/MF
*Alexandra Wodka-F
*Megan Carpenter-D
Melanie Ward-D/MF
Kelly Angerosa-MF
C. Perea-D/MF
* Redshirt freshman

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The MWC season doesn't start until October and one of the first steps in the proving comes Friday night when the Idaho State Bengals come calling at 7 p.m. It's the Lobos first real test on the field. It's Coach Kit Vela's first chance to dip deep into her talented roster of Lobos and evaluate the talent and the seemingly endless combinations.

"We lost five seniors who played a lot for us and we are young and trying to figure ourselves out," said Vela. "We will be looking at combinations, but we are deep and we`ll probably be playing more people this year."

Said Quador: "We can go to our bench and not worry about our level dropping off."

Vela approaches the 2009 season like a veteran coach and she is more emotionally controlled than her young Lobos. She knows a long soccer season is more of a marathon than a sprint and she wants to build and peak her team for conference time.

But the early part of the season can be tough when you have a roster that is top-to-bottom talented. Vela has to figure out which players need to be on the field in which combinations. She has lots of options, but chemistry also can be a difficult thing to grasp, if you don't keep the players on the field long enough to figure things out.

"If you move too many people in and out, you might never find chemistry," said Vela, smiling in anticipation of the pleasant challenge ahead of her.

What's nice for Vela is that she actually has this problem to worry about. Her program has grown over the years and is attractive enough to attract some of the top players in the region. Now, she has to mesh that talent into a cohesive team of focus, purpose and success.

"I think we have more talent than ever before," said Strnadova. "Our key is to integrate all the new players into the team and find a team rhythm. We have a lot of young players, but they are all good, young players, who are fast and technically sound."

The Lobos' youth movement is represented by 11 incoming freshmen. But Vela also has experience with 15 letter winners and 11 starters back.

"The inexperience might pop up at times, but I'm not concerned," said Vela, who has posted four consecutive winning seasons. "We're deep, dynamic and high energy. We are disciplined on defense and we are aggressive in our attack.

"We have players who are versatile, so we can present many faces that all have their strengths."

The faces of Strnadova and Quador are intense and serious. They also have a few goals shared by their teammates. They want to win the MWC title. They want to advance to the NCAA playoffs for the first time in the program's history. They want their final year as a Lobo to be one of no regrets.

"We want so much for this team," said Quador. "We want the NCAA and the MWC championship. We have all the ability in the world. When we come together, teams had better watch out. We want to be a team of firsts."

Which is just fine. But first things first: Idaho State, chemistry, hard work, improvement.

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