Nov. 18, 2005
The 2005 New Mexico women's soccer season proved to be one of the best and one of the most thrilling in the program's 13-year history. Finishing the season above .500 (8-7-4, .526) for the first time since 2002 was just one of the Lobos' many accomplishments in 2005 as the team also proved itself in the Mountain West Conference Tournament by making its second ever championship game appearance.
New Mexico tackled a tough schedule in its characteristic blue-collared fashion, going head-to-head with some of the big names in women's soccer at home and on the road during the regular season. Powered by perhaps the best defense in program history, the Lobos earned some memorable and history-making defeats, including huge upsets over No. 6 BYU during the regular season and No. 22 Utah in the MWC Tournament. The Lobos also had an impressive 1-1 draw at 22nd-ranked Arizona.
The 2005 season was also one of the best in head coach Kit Vela's five-year tenure. Vela, with the help of her coaching staff, led a 2005 squad above and beyond what was expected as well as prove that 2005 was the year New Mexico would turn the corner.
INTRODUCING YOUR LOBOS
A total of 29 players comprised this season's roster including three seniors, 10 juniors, six sophomores and 10 freshmen. On the coaching staff, Vela was once again accompanied by her husband and assistant coach Jorge Vela. The coaching staff also hired on first time graduate assistant and former UConn soccer All-American Kristen Graczyk.
New Mexico's senior trinity of defenders Nicole McCarty (Mission Viejo, Calif.), Nicole Pitcock (Tracy, Calif.) and goalkeeper Kristen Winters (Lakewood, Colo.) not only anchored the Lobos' defensive line, but also brought great leadership to the entire team.
A total of six juniors made up the Lobos' main starting line up in 2005. Juniors Kristine Sweat (Concord, Calif.) and Bridgette Sanchez (Rio Rancho, N.M.) were New Mexico's main forward combo. At midfield, juniors Kaela Kelly (Hesperia, Calif.) and Eryn Paetz (San Pedro, Calif.) teamed with the only two underclassmen in the starting eleven, sophomores Terryn Granados (Albuquerque, N.M.) and Katelyn Ley (Marine, Minn.). Juniors Ashley Lowery (Santa Rosa, Calif.) and Alanna Abeyta (Albuquerque, N.M.) made up the central defensive position along side senior wings McCarty and Pitcock.
Freshmen Hannah Hand (Los Angeles, Calif.) and Asha Richardson (Salt Lake City, Utah) provided most of the forward relief from off the bench. Other freshmen that made several appearances off the bench were defender Krista Peterson (Fountain Valley, Calif.) and midfielder Kaci Paetz (San Pedro, Calif.).
Eight players from the state of New Mexico were on the 2005 roster. New Mexico players Bridgette Sanchez (Rio Rancho HS), Terryn Granados (La Cueva HS) and Alanna Abeyta (St. Pius X HS) started in every game and each contributed a pair of goals.
WINTERS SETTLES IN FOR ONE LAST SEASON
Senior goalkeeper Kristen Winters finished her sixth season with the Lobos in 2005. Her time with New Mexico was extended after the NCAA granted her a medical hardship during the 2005 spring semester. Winters' history with the Lobos dates back to 2000 when she was a redshirt after breaking her leg the summer before the 2000 regular fall season. In 2001, Winters was not back to complete health and was forced to miss most of the season. Her actual start in New Mexico soccer was not until 2002 when she came in as the Lobos' starting goalkeeper. Since then, Winters has worked as New Mexico's top keeper.
Winters ended her time with New Mexico as one of the best Lobo keepers in school history, holding records in almost every major goalkeeper category at UNM including all-time shutouts (25), career wins (28), and goals against average (1.28). She also ended her career ranked third in all-time saves with 327.
In 2005, Winters had 50 saves, eight shutouts and 13 goals allowed for a 0.70 goals against average. Her 2005 GAA also broke the record for top single-season performances at UNM and ranked second in the MWC.
Breakout scorer for New Mexico in 2005 was junior forward Kristine Sweat. The Concord, Calif. native definitely took the offensive reigns for New Mexico, scoring a total of six goals for 13 points. Sweat also led in shots with 49, 20 of which were on goal. She had three game-winners, including the biggest one to date in the Lobos' huge 1-0 upset over No. 6 BYU.
Sweat is currently fourth on the all-time career shots list with 108 in her three years with the Lobos.
UNM RECORD BOOK
There are a few Lobos who made the UNM record book after the 2005 season, including one player who broke a few records. Here is a look at who ranks where in the UNM record book:
Goalkeeper Kristen Winters (2001-05)
Career: Games Played (T6th with 76), Games Started (3rd with 75), Minutes Played (3rd with 6,935), Saves (3rd with 327), Goal Against Average (1st with 1.28), Shutouts (1st with 25), Most Wins (1st with 28)
2005 Season: Goals Against Average (1st with 0.70 ), Shutouts (3rd with 8), Most Wins (5th with 8)
Forward Kristine Sweat (2003-Current)
Career: Shots (4th with 108), Goals (T7th with 10), Assists (T10th with 6), Points (9th with 26), Game-Winners (T10th with 3)
2005 Season: Shots (7th with 49), Goals (T9th with 6), Game-Winners (T7th with 3)
Midfielder Katelyn Ley (2004-Current)
Career: Assists (T10th with 6)
2005 Season: Assists (T9th with 4)
Defender Nicole McCarty (2001-2005)
Career: Games Started (T8th with 65)
Team Records set in 2005
Fewest opponent shots allowed in school history with 187 Fewest opponent goals scored in school history with 15
Before the start of the season, New Mexico was predicted to finish seventh in the league according to the MWC Preseason Coaches Poll. The Lobos surpassed the preseason prediction with a 3-3-1 final conference record and a fifth place finish out of the seven other league teams.
The Lobos proved themselves against nationally ranked teams, finishing the season with a 2-0-1 record against top-25 opponents. Here is a look at how New Mexico did against its ranked opponents in 2005:
Sept. 18 vs. No. 22 Arizona (at Tucson, Ariz.) T, 1-1(2OT): The Wildcats scored the first goal of the game in the first half. Junior midfielder Kellee Hafner (Katy, Texas) tied it up with less than eight minutes to go in the second half. Freshman Asha Richardson was credited with the assist.
Defense was key in this game. In 110 minutes of play, New Mexico allowed Arizona to take just 14 shots with five on goal. Winters was forced to make four saves in the game.
Oct. 6 vs. No. 6 BYU (at Provo, Utah) W, 1-0: This game could not have been a more challenging scenario for the Lobos to be entering for their first conference game of the season. Not only was it also BYU's first conference game and it was held on BYU's home field, the Cougars were also undefeated (11-0-1) and walking tall with a top-10 ranking.
Junior forward Kristine Sweat came through in the clutch, scoring the game-winner in the second half off a pass from junior midfielder Eryn Paetz. The win over BYU was UNM's biggest upset in school history. The last time UNM had defeated BYU was in 2001. New Mexico also defeated No. 12 Kentucky in the same year, which was the last time the Lobos defeated a ranked team.
Solid defense the entire way and one perfect opportunity to score was all the Lobos needed to crack the Cougars' undefeated record. In the game, UNM's defense held BYU to a season low nine shots. BYU entered the game against UNM averaging 18 shots a game.
It was the first time the Cougars had been handed a scoreless loss at home in 12 games. Arizona handed them a 1-0 loss on Sept. 23, 2004.
Nov. 3 vs. No. 22 Utah (at MWC Tournament/Las Vegas, Nev.) W, 1-0: New Mexico's win over Utah came in the semifinal round at the 2005 MWC Tournament and was the Lobos' ticket to the championship game. Utah was the top-seed in the tournament while New Mexico was No. 5.
Sophomore midfielder Terryn Granados scored New Mexico's goal in the second minute off a throw-in from fellow sophomore midfielder Katelyn Ley. For the next 88 minutes, New Mexico unleashed its unstoppable defense on Utah to hold the final score to 1-0.
The Utes had not lost to a MWC opponent in 11 games and had won 14 of their last 16 against MWC teams dating back to Oct. 14, 2004.
No doubt New Mexico's defense was one of its best known assets in 2005 and arguably the best in school history. The Lobo backline held its opponents to just 15 goals, breaking the record for fewest opponent goals scored in a season at UNM. The previous record was held by the 1993 Lobo squad which allowed 19 goals during the inaugural season.
UNM's defense also broke the record for fewest opponent shots allowed in a season after holding 2005 teams to just 187 shots.
Thanks to a tight defense in 2005 goalkeeper Kristen Winters had a GAA of 0.70 and was forced to only make a total of 50 saves. Winters' goals against average of 0.70 ranks No. 1 on the single-season top performances list at UNM.
Since New Mexico finished the regular season 3-3-1 in conference competition and fifth in the league, the team entered the MWC Tournament in Las Vegas, Nev. as the No. 5 seed.
En route to the championship game, New Mexico had to face No. 4 seed Wyoming and top-seeded Utah. Both teams had defeated the Lobos during the regular season.
In the game against Wyoming, the Lobos outshot the Cowgirls 23 to 5 and New Mexico's keeper Kristen Winters only had to make one save in the match, while Wyoming's keeper was forced to make 10.
After its 1-0 upset over top-seeded and 22nd-ranked Utah in the semifinal round, New Mexico was on its way to its second ever MWC tournament championship game appearance.
New Mexico was the lowest seed ever to advance to the MWC championship game as it went on to face tournament host and No. 2 seed UNLV.
The final game against the Rebels did not turn out the way the Lobos were hoping. Both teams battled through the full regulation, leaving little chances for either to score. UNLV only outshot UNM 7 to 5 in the entire game, but one goal in the first five minutes of overtime gave UNLV the coveted championship title and ended New Mexico's amazing postseason run.
Prior to the MWC Tournament, three Lobos were named to the all-conference second team. Juniors Alanna Abeyta (defender), Ashley Lowery (defender) and Kristine Sweat (forward) were the three New Mexico players represented on the team, making it the most honorees for UNM since 2002. All three were honored by the league for the first time in their careers, while Abeyta and Lowery were the first UNM defenders named all-MWC team since 2001.
A total of five UNM players were named to the all-tournament team after the championship game. Abeyta and Lowery were recognized as well as Kaela Kelly (midfielder), Bridgette Sanchez (forward) and Nicole McCarty (defender). All five were named to the all-tournament team for the first time in their careers.
MWC ATHLETES OF THE WEEK
Forward Kristine Sweat and goalkeeper Kristen Winters were named MWC Players of the Week during the regular season. Winters received her second career weekly honor for the week of Sept. 12 after earning her 20th career shutout in the scoreless tie against defending SEC champion Auburn.
Sweat earned her first career weekly conference award for the week of Oct. 10 after scoring the game-winning goal in New Mexico's big upset over 6th-ranked BYU.
2005 NEW MEXICO QUICK NOTES
New Mexico finished the 2005 season with an 8-7-4 record (.526), the best and first winning record since the 2002 season when the Lobos went 12-8-1.
The Lobos ended the season with a 4-2-3 (.611) home record, making it the best winning percentage at home since 1997 when New Mexico went 6-3 (.677).
New Mexico had nine shutouts in 2005, making it the most shutouts since 2002 when the Lobos notched 10.
Under head coach Kit Vela, UNM is 5-5 in MWC Tournament play with 4 shutout victories. New Mexico was 1-5 its first five conference tournament appearances (1-3 WAC, 0-2 MWC).
With tournament win over Utah, New Mexico snapped a 3-game losing streak against Utah. Its last win over the Utes was a 1-0 shutout in the semifinals of the 2002 MWC tournament.
The Lobos have allowed just three goals in their last six games (560 minutes).
New Mexico have allowed opponents to take just 36 shots in their last five games.
New Mexico is the first team ever in the history of the Mountain West Conference to defeat both Utah teams (BYU and University of Utah) in a single season.
The four ties in 2005, ties the record for the most ties in a single season. The 2003 season also had four ties.
LOOKING AHEAD - SPRING SEASON
The Lobos will use the spring season to train and prepare for the 2006 fall season. Last spring, New Mexico played exhibition games against five other Division I schools as well as spent time out on the practice field, fine tuning it strengths as a team and individually.
With only three seniors graduated from the 2005 fall roster, New Mexico will bring back over half of its starters and main contributors from off the bench to spring training which, begins in late January.
2005 SEASON REVIEW Q&A WITH COACH VELA
Did you expect the season to turn out the way that it did?
KV: I knew we had it in us. I knew we had the personality, but you never know in a course of a year how everything is going to come together, if you have any injuries, what kind of luck is going to come on your side in the moments you need it. And I still think there were some moments we could've used a little more luck, but this team did a great job. Overall, this was a very successful year for a program that's trying to create a foundation and we did. Our three seniors were fantastic in every way. They were tremendous leaders on the field and off the field and they helped set a tradition that we've been looking for. The tradition is be responsible for yourself, set standards, achieve goals, set goals high and achieve them.
People say, `oh you guys had a great run at the end,' and we did have a great run, but even if you look at it from the start, it was a great season. The teams we played against were very good. The wins we had and even some of the losses we had were good losses. For the first time ever we tied U of A when they were ranked 22nd, we beat BYU when they were ranked 6th, we beat Utah when they were ranked 22nd. To defeat both Utah teams in the same season is not an easy thing to do. They are dominant teams not only in the conference, but nationally. And just the fact that we have two dominant teams, nationally, in our conference and then you look at the rest of our conference, we have a top-notch conference. Doing well in conference itself is never going to be easy. Doing well in the conference tournament is never going to be easy. We achieved great goals this year. It's a shame that it ended the way that it did. I think everybody was stunned because we felt like we could've won that game, but UNLV is a good team. It was a very even game in a lot of ways, but unfortunately they got the end of it.
Even though your initial reaction was disappointment by the championship loss, did that go away after thinking about how great it was that the team got that far in the first place?
KV: Well, we get greedy. I think any coach and any team gets greedy. When you have success you want more and we felt that success. We felt that feeling of a winning program. The team expected to win and it was a disappointment when they didn't.
What do you think it says about New Mexico that it can go against these top-ranked teams and bring great competition and even win?
KV: I think it shows that we're just as competitive and we play with heart. We play with attitude and that was one of our goals at the beginning of the season. We may not have the players on the field that have the same accolades as some of the teams we play against. I don't think it's about what you've done in the past. I look at players and say, `our team, the team that won this year did it without a lot of players with accolades.' We don't spend time worrying about that, what we spend time on is what do we bring to the table, what are we going to give for 90 minutes. What we've learned over the five years we've been here, especially in the last two years, a lot of times it's not what the opponent brings to us, it's what we don't bring to the table. If we put forth our best efforts we're going to have good results. Maybe not everyday, but we're going to have good results and this year proved it. I think that was a learning tool for us. Know what your opponent is about, know their strengths, know that they are beatable. I think that's how we went into the BYU game. What we learned is if we bring in our "A" game and put forth our best effort, we're not going to win everything, but nobody does. Just put your best foot forward, give it your best effort and you're going to get more for that than if you didn't.
KV: I think what we're going to miss from these three are sort of the intangibles. They were really good on the field, but what we'll miss from them is what their personalities gave. Every year you have a different senior class and different personalities. This new senior class will establish themselves in the spring and we'll see what their leadership is going to be like. We're not going to try to replace those three because I don't think you can. I think we're going to find different players to play those roles and take their good qualities and expose those qualities. Nobody is Nicole McCarty and nobody is Kristen Winters or Nikki Pitcock. Let's just take the good qualities they had, don't forget them and try to learn from them and keep bringing out our good things and keep going forward. They helped establish a positive tradition and we appreciate that. We don't want to lose what those three brought to the table, we want to keep that going.