Oct. 24, 2008
Women: 5:30 p.m. Friday vs. San Diego State
Men: 7:30 p.m. Friday vs. Stanford
Where: UNM Soccer Complex
Quick fact: Senior Night for five UNM women: Shannon Adragna, Samantha Bevis, Hannah Hand, Kaci Paetz, Krista Peterson
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The one-game-at-a-time philosophy holds true for the Lobo men and the Lobo women in their Friday night doubleheader at the UNM Soccer Complex, but this also holds true for both teams: they will be playing with the distant postseason in mind.
For sure, Friday's game against San Diego State holds postseason implications for Kit Vela's women. Beat San Diego State and Vela's Lobos slide into the Mountain West Conference Tournament to be held Nov. 5-8 in Las Vegas where only the league's top six teams get to play. Making the MWC tourney has been one of the goals for this year's team.
A spot in the MWC postseason is key for UNM for another reason, too. If the young and talented Lobos can sneak out of Vegas with the MWC title, they grab the league's automatic berth into NCAA play.
Jeremy Fishbein's men actually could lose tonight and still lay claim to the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation title - and the automatic bid - but the Lobo men sit upon a dangerous ledge. The 3-2 Lobos have two losses in MPSF play and need 5-0 Denver to drop a game prior to Denver's Nov. 16 visit to Albuquerque. And then the Lobos would have to beat the talented Denver squad.
"The unfortunate thing is it's out of our hands," Fishbein said of needing help from some other MPSF team. "Hats off to Denver. They've been great so far. But I think they are going to have trouble (staying undefeated in league prior to their visit to UNM)."
The Friday visit by the Sanford Cardinal has no impact on the MPSF, but it is important to UNM for another reason. Fishbein said his Lobos still "have a chance" at an at-large bid if they can win out the season. The Lobos have six games left, including Stanford. But UNM definitely would be sitting on a thin bubble waiting for an at-large call. The Lobos carry a 6-5-2 mark into Friday's 7:30 p.m. kickoff.
"It's a different year," said Fishbein. "We have a target on (us). It's always big to beat New Mexico. The games we've lost, the other teams are celebrating. It's almost a relief (when we win). That's a hard thing for a team to deal with. That's a real unique challenge."
Fishbein said his Lobos have played well most of the season and most of the time during games. But not all the time.
"We're playing well, but we're not playing well for 90 minutes," said Fishbein. "And we're not scoring goals. We're just not getting the consistency. I've done a lot of soul searching, but it's hard to put a finger on something. But we're playing good soccer and we expect to win every time we step onto the field."
The women are in a more comfortable position knowing a trip to the MWC tournament is in their hands. The top four teams going to the Vegas tourney are Brigham Young, TCU, UNLV and Utah. The Lobos are in a battle with SDSU and Wyoming, all with 2-3 league marks, to snatch up the No. 5 and No. 6 invitations.
"Everyone is fighting for those spots," said Vela. A win over SDSU would clinch a spot for UNM in the six-team MWC tourney. If the Lobos lose, they could still earn an invite with a win at UNLV, but that invite might put the Lobo women in the position of needing some help.
"They've been the heart and soul of our team (for several years)," said Vela. "They've been here since we've been winning and they're part of the winning tradition. They bring great leadership. They bring great presence on the field. The seniors did the job of creating the chemistry between the team and creating the atmosphere to put us in a position to play well."
Fishbein's Lobos would like to finish the season 12-5-2 and make an argument for at least an NCAA at-large bid. The Lobos haven't played badly this season, but haven't been putting the ball into the back of the net enough to win key games.
"We've been pretty solid defensively," said Fishbein. "But when you're not generating the goals, everybody gets frustrated. By most people's standards, it's been a good season, but our standards are high."
Stanford is a program with a solid tradition in soccer, but is struggling in 2008 with a 3-7-1 mark, 1-3-1 in PAC-10 play. The Cardinal are coming off a 1-0 overtime loss to No. 13 Cal. Sophomore Bobby Warshaw leads the Cardinal in scoring with three goals and an assist on the year.
New Mexico is led by junior Justin Davis's 10 points on three goals and four assists. Senior Chris Wright leads the squad with four goals on the year. Sophomore Eric Staver has played every minute in the net and has a 1.17 g.a.a. and three shutouts in 2008.
Editor's note: Richard Stevens is a former Associate Sports Editor and sports columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org. Previous articles are available at The Richard Stevens Corner.