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UNM Women's Soccer Opens Season At No. 23 Oklahoma State Friday
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/29/2007
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics

Aug. 29, 2007

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Albuquerque, N.M. --- New Mexico women's soccer opens the 2007 season this weekend at No. 23 Oklahoma State Friday and at Tulsa Sunday. The Lobos are coming off an 8-7-5 season and finished tied for third in the Mountain West Conference. UNM has never faced OSU and only played TU three times. The Cowgirls finished 17-3-3 overall in 2006 and were led by top scorer and returner All-American Yolando Odenyo. TU opens the season Friday against Arkansas before hosting the Lobos. The Golden Hurricane were 7-11-1 last year but return nine starters this year. All the exciting action this weekend can be followed online via gametracker at www.GoLobos.com.

New Faces - UNM women's soccer welcomes 11 newcomers to the roster including 10 freshmen. Senior Martina Brtan is the only transfer player, while the remaining student-athletes enter their first season of collegiate soccer. Although young, they are one of the most talented classes to ever play at New Mexico. The class is speed, athleticism and the tools to compete at the highest level. Through the preseason many have already made an impact and will be vital in the Lobos success this season. The freshmen newcomers include Kate Wyrick, Alexis Ball, Emily Simon, Kerrin Stephan, Jennifer Nielsen, Elizabeth Lambert, Stephanie Lowery, Jordan Craig, Rachel Fields and Natalie Wheatley.

Senior Leadership - The Lobos return three seniors including Amber Wetsch, Terryn Granados and Anna Neu. The class has been instrumental in building the UNM program and have been key in back-to-back winning seasons for the Lobos. The class entered college in the fall of 2004 and have elevated the expectation level for the New Mexico women's soccer program. Their influence will be crital this fall and will remain with this team years after their eligibility is gone.

Program on the Rise - New Mexico finished 8-7-5 last year and concluded its first back-to-back winning seasons since the 1996-97 years. The Lobos have won at least eight matches the previous two years and reached the Mountain West Conference Championship. Last year, UNM reached the semifinals of the MWC Championship after advancing past San Diego State in the first round on penalty kicks.

New Opponent - This weekend marks the first time in New Mexico school history that its faced Oklahoma State. The Lobos and Cowgirls square off in Stillwater, Okla., Friday night at the Cowgirl Soccer Complex. Livestats will be available for the match at www.GoLobos.com.

Home Opener - UNM hosts its annual Nike Classic on Sept. 7-9 at the UNM Soccer Complex. The Lobos play Long Island on Friday, Sept. 7 at 5 p.m. to open the home schedule. The final Nike Classic match for UNM is Saturday, Sept. 8 at 3 p.m. against Utah Valley State. This season, the Lobos are scheduled to play seven home games. All home games will be played at the UNM Soccer Complex.

Lobos Online - The University of New Mexico women's soccer program is proud to announce that all home games will be available online via All-Access on www.GoLobos.com. The broadcasts will feature a play-by-play broadcaster as well as color analysis. This season marks the first in school history that all seven home games will be available with live audio and video. Along with All-Access, the UNM soccer games are available through gametracker.

Exhibition Recap - The Lobos finished exhibition play with a 2-0-1 record including victories over West Texas A&M and New Mexico Highlands. The only tie came against the ninth ranked Texas Longhorns in a scoreless draw on Aug. 24 in Albuquerque.

Solid In Goal - UNM returns two solid goalkeepers this season. Junior Shannon Adragna returns in goal after starting every game, while sophomore Kiani Wong is waiting for an opportunity to shine. Wong and Adragna both have exceptional skills and will be vital in the Lobos success.

Season Openers - The Lobos will play their 15th season opener Friday against No. 23 Oklahoma State. UNM has an overall record of 5-6-3 in openers and are 2-2-2 under Vela. Last season, the Lobos opened the year with a 3-0 victory over Canisius College.

Goal Scorers - New Mexico has 13 players back from the 2006 roster but lost 16 of 26 goals. The Lobos have four players that found the net last year including junior Asha Richardson (4), senior Terryn Granados (2), junior Hannah Hand (1) and sophomore Markee Nobriga (2).

2007 Season Outlook - New Mexico women's soccer enters the 2007 season with a young but talented squad. The foundation of success has been established after back-to-back winning seasons and the promise of the future has now arrived. The Lobos return three seniors and welcome 11 newcomers in their pursuit for a Mountain West Conference title. UNM tied for third last season in the conference standings and reached the semifinals of the conference tournament. This season brings excitement and determination to continue the program's success.

"This team has the talent to be very dangerous this fall," said head coach Kit Vela. "The 17 returners are hungry and the first thing they said was `remember those games last season'. We have great depth, speed and experience that will pave the way for our successful. I think people will be pleasantly surprised with how athletic and dynamic we are and the kind of soccer we play. We are excited and ready for a successful season."

Forwards - New Mexico returns three forwards this year including juniors Hannah Hand and Asha Richardson. Sophomore Markee Nobriga is back and ready to continue to impress. Hand has emerged as a standout after a strong spring and excelled over the summer working out at the National "B" Team camp.

"Hannah Hand has the talent to be deadly," said Vela. "If she can gain confidence early and know that this is her team, she could do a lot of things. She has the speed to dominate and is a natural goal scorer. You put that combination together and you have an amazing soccer player."

Along with Hand, Richardson provides speed and the ability to score. Richardson scored four goals last year including the game-winner against Washington State. Nobriga showed great potential last fall as a freshman scoring two goals and providing valuable minutes.

Redshirt freshman Katie McKernan had a strong spring and has really developed over the last year. McKernan joins the mix of forwards and will battle for playing time. Highly-touted freshman Alexis Ball could potentially start as a true freshman. She possesses speed, scoring ability and could be an impact player this fall.

"We have very athletic and skillful forwards this season and have the ability to get behind defenses," said Vela. "We have more overall speed than ever before and I think you will see we'll be able to stretch defenses more. We are deeper than before but it really depends on how well they gel. We have to be able to find the net and need players to step up."

Midfielders - Depth is the key in the midfield this year for New Mexico. Seniors Terryn Granados and Anna Neu are two of the top players and will play a vital role this season. Granados will move into the center midfield position after playing wide most of her career. The switch will give UNM options with the ability to slip outside if needed. She has great vision and the leg to make things happen. Neu is a strong player with an understanding of the system.

Junior Kaci Paetz, senior Martina Brtan and sophomore Veronika Strnadova bring experience at the midfielder position as well and could provide valuable minutes. Freshmen Jennifer Nielsen and Rachel Fields have stood out early in the fall and have great promise. Nielsen has excelled fitness-wise and is very athletic, while Fields is very technical with great speed.

"Every great team in the country has good depth and the ability to stay fresh," said Vela. "With this midfield, we will have more depth than ever before that allows us to do multiple things. We will get more production out of our midfielders. They have great vision and have the ability to slip passes. Their speed of play is much better than we have ever been. Last spring, we made major steps after developing a solid foundation from the previous senior class. This group is loaded with talent and we are very happy with the dynamics they have shown."

Defenders - Senior Amber Wetsch and junior Krista Peterson are returning starters in the backfield. Wetsch emerged as a starter last fall and helped form one of the toughest backlines in the conference. Peterson returns after excelling last fall in her first starting role. Peterson possesses a strong understanding of her position, experience and toughness.

Sophomore Samantha Bevis and redshirt freshman Megan Bodenheimer look to fill the void in the central backfield left by Ashley Lowery and Alana Abeyta. Bevis has limited experience but brings athleticism and talent. Bodenheimer is a strong athletic player who has great potential. Sophomore Paige Collett along with freshmen Elizabeth Lambert, Emily Simon and Natalie Wheatley will compete for playing time.

"We had a solid backline last year with an excellent keeper in Shannon Adragna," said Vela. "The missing component was a lack of rotation. This year, we have multiple players that can shift positions and that allows us options. This backline is going to be more aggressive and more athletic. We lack experience in spots but they are athletic enough to make up for mistakes."

Goalkeepers - Second team all-MWC selection Shannon Adragna returns in net. Adragna started every match last season and finished with 60 saves and a 0.80 goals against average. She is coming off workouts at the National "B" Team camp and could be one of the top keepers in the country. Adragna has natural ability to go along with experience and determination.

Sophomore Kiani Wong is back but has seen limited time in goal. Wong has great tools and has progressed over the last year. Her development will allow for playing time this fall and gives her the ability to battle for a starting role.

"In goal we have two great keepers with Shannon (Adragna) and Kiani (Wong)," said Vela. "Shannon has proven to be one of the top keepers in the conference and Kiani is very talented. Kiani didn't allow a goal all spring and has really found herself. This is a great situation for this team to have two outstanding keepers."

Newcomers - UNM has 11 newcomers on the roster this fall and 10 are freshmen. The Lobos add senior transfer Martina Brtan, who was a two-time Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference player at New Mexico Highlands. Brtan immediately joins the group of midfielders but has the ability to score. The addition of freshmen Kate Wyrick, Kerrin Stephan, Alexis Ball, Emily Simon, Jennifer Nielsen, Elizabeth Lambert, Stephanie Lowery, Jordan Craig, Rachel Fields and Natalie Wheatley adds depth. All will be given opportunities to excel in their first seasons at the Division I level.

"We have a loaded freshmen class that is the future of Lobo women's soccer," said Vela. "We believe in every player that was brought in to our program but it is still too early to make predictions. We have seen some players emerge, but we'll see how well they adapt to the speed of the game. They are all very talented and will help provide strong depth in every position."

Coaching Staff - Kit Vela returns for her seventh season as the head coach at UNM. Vela has guided the Lobos to back-to-back winning seasons. It is the first time UNM has accomplished the feat since 1996-97. During Vela's tenure, the Lobos are 40-58-16 and have reached the Mountain West Conference Tournament every year. In six trips to the MWC tournament, Vela has guided UNM to the championship game twice and reached the semifinals in 2003 and 2006. Vela is assisted by her husband, Jorge, Vela and Kristen Graczyk.

Jorge Vela is entering his seventh year on the staff and is one of the finest goalkeeper coaches in the country. Vela has produced all-conference keepers such as junior Shannon Adragna, former four-time All-MWC honoree Kristen Winters and 2001 first team All-MWC selection Shelly Hammock. His influence in goal has helped UNM climb into a conference contender.

Graczyk is back for her third season and brings a wealth of experience. Graczyk has helped in every aspect of the offense and has been a major part of the rebuilding process. Former Lobo Justin Sells returns for his second year as the volunteer assistant under Vela. Sells assists in a variety of ways and is a key member of the staff.

Schedule - The Lobos are slated to face five NCAA Tournament teams from last season, including three from the Mountain West Conference. UNM is set to open the year on Aug. 31 in Stillwater, Okla., against Oklahoma State.

UNM will participate in three tournaments during the regular season. The Lobos host the Nike Classic on Sept. 7-8, featuring College Cup participant Long Island and Utah Valley State. UNM travels to Charlottesville, Va., on Sept. 14-16 for the Virginia Tournament and will take on Colorado and Arizona. The Lobos then head to the UTEP Tournament where they will face the Miners and North Dakota State on Sept. 21-23. The final non-conference game is set for Sept. 30 at Northern Arizona starting at 1 p.m.

The Lobos open MWC action on Oct. 12 against Wyoming at the UNM Soccer Complex. UNM will play its first three conference games at the friendly confines. Following the Cowgirls, the Lobos square off against TCU on Oct. 14 and UNLV on Oct. 19. The first MWC road game is Oct. 21 in Salt Lake City, Utah against the Utes. UNM battled San Diego State in Calif., on Oct. 25. The final regular-season road game is Oct. 27 at BYU. The Lobos finish the year at home against Air Force on Nov. 3.

The 2007 conference tournament will be held in Provo, Utah this season and is set to begin on Nov. 7 and continue through Nov. 10.

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