Oct. 29, 2010
By Chelsea Einerwold, Writer/GoLobos.com
The University of New Mexico women's soccer team already has a share of the Mountain West Conference title and the top seed for the conference tournament in hand, but the No. 23 Lobos want to claim the whole thing for themselves.
They will look to do just that as they travel to Fort Worth, Texas, Saturday to take on Texas Christian University in their final match of the regular season. New Mexico can either beat or tie the Horned Frogs in order to secure the regular-season title. Were the Lobos to lose to TCU, the title is still theirs if Brigham Young loses or ties with Utah. New Mexico and the Horned Frogs kick off Saturday at 6 p.m. MT. The game will be aired, tape delay, on The Mtn. at 8 p.m.
New Mexico was picked to finish fifth overall in the MWC by the conference's head coaches in August. Now, near the end of October and on the brink of the postseason, the Lobos have rendered the preseason poll a distant afterthought.
"This is an amazing group with lots and lots of character and we're playing great soccer," Lobo assistant coach Jorge Vela said. "The nice thing is that we know we're good, you guys have seen us play and know we're good, and the country knows we're good."
The Lobos (11-1-4) are ranked No. 23 in this week's Soccer America magazine poll and No. 24 in the Soccer Times poll. New Mexico is coming off a double overtime, 1-0 win at Air Force on Oct. 22, and a 1-1 double-overtime tie at Wyoming on Oct. 24.
While the Lobos have already earned a share of the conference title regardless of Saturday's outcome, they know there is no room for a letdown in effort.
"Every game this year has been a big game for us," Vela said. "TCU is a tremendous team. They've been a little up and down, which makes it even more dangerous. For our girls Saturday is what is important to us, and then after that we will worry about the rest."
This is the 11th time New Mexico and TCU have faced off, with the Lobos owning a commanding 6-3-1 series lead.
As a team, TCU leads the conference in shots per game, averaging 18.89 a contest. They also lead in goals per game, averaging two per contest. TCU junior Jordan Calhoun is the Horned Frogs' most dangerous offensive weapon, having netted six goals and three assists on the season. Spearheading TCU's defense is goalkeeper Kelsey Walters. The senior has 64 saves this season.
However, the Horned Frogs vaunted offense may face its stiffest challenge Saturday when the Lobos come to town. New Mexico is tops in conference in goals allowed this season, having held opponents to a mere five in 16 games.
Lobo keeper Kelli Cornell leads the MWC in clean sheets, with 10. In 16 games, the sophomore also owns a .30 goals-against average, the lowest in the conference.
Offensively, the Lobos look just as good. Junior Jennifer Williams leads the conference with 4.50 shots-per-game. Her eight goals scored are also second best in conference. Midfielder Rachel Fields is tied for fourth in conference with six goals this season.
"It's a very simple, but proud team," Vela said. "The best way to describe it, as the Air Force coach said to us, is that we're a true blue-collar team with skill.
"Winning the championship means a lot to the girls. The conference is in the top ten in the country, so to be able to say we are the Mountain West Conference champions in 2010 is a very big deal for us."