Nov. 20, 2011
New Mexico Lobo Men's Soccer - NCAA Championships
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The magic of an undefeated season seemed to have deserted the New Mexico Lobos for the first part of their second-round NCAA battle with the Duke Blue Devils. However, the magic returned in the form of a game-tying screamer by Blake Smith and a golden-goal header by Carson Baldinger in the 98th minute.
The Lobos took advantage of Duke playing a man short and Smith sent a screamer past the Duke keeper at the 82nd minute which produced a 1-1 tie that eventually pushed the Lobos into overtime -- still a man up.
Naturally, the No. 1 ranked Lobos and a portion of the 6,200 in attendance charged the field.
It was a tough loss for Duke, which came across the country to play the nation's top-ranking team and appeared headed for the second-round upset. Duke went up 1-0 on a savage finish by Nick Palodichuk, who drilled the cross past UNM keeper Victor Rodriguez, who had no chance for the save.
Duke then fell back into a defensive wall trying to weather out a number of UNM attacks. The tactic provided a number of scary moments for Duke, but the strategy was working until an untimely call on a header sent Chris Tweed-Kent to the bench with a red card. Tweed-Kent scored the game-winner in the first round that sent Duke to New Mexico's pitch.
The Lobos attacked with the fierceness and the desperation of an undefeated team not wanting to experience a season-ending loss.
Smith gave the Lobos life when he received a pass in front of the Duke net, went to his left and sent a rocket past the right side of Duke keeper, James Belshaw.
Duke being down a man surely aided the Lobos in netting the tie, and it was a tremendous handicap for the altitude-tested Blue Devils as they marched into overtime with the nation's No. 1-ranked team. At least one talented Lobo could never be marked as UNM was a man up.
The Lobos' golden goal was a thing of beauty as UNM powered down on the right side of the Lobo attack zone. Gibbons sent a near-perfect pass to Sandoval, whose header was close to being the game-winner. However, when it floated past Belshaw, Baldinger was there to push the Lobos deeper into NCAA play.
The win raises UNM's record to 18-0-3 and the Lobos move on to play at South Florida this coming Sunday. South Florida also got a golden goal in overtime -- also a header - to stay alive in the NCAA bracket.
The first goal for South Florida in its win over UCF was an own goal by UCF at the 69:17 mark of the second half. UCF worked back into a 1-1 tie and the teams marched into overtime.
South Florida got the win and secured the home field advantage over UNM when Wesley Charpie scored on a header five minutes and 47 seconds into overtime. The game-winner was assisted by Sebastian Thuriere. UCF had 12 shots on goal to six for South Florida.
The Lobos, the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation champions, are the No. 10 seed in the NCAA bracket and South Florida is No. 7. UNM has not in 21 straight games.
The Lobos dominated the action most of the way Sunday, especially when Duke fell back into its defensive tactics after going up 1-0. UNM had 17 shots with seven on goal. Duke had 13 shots with two on goal.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org