Oct. 13, 2010
Lobo Women's Soccer
Thursday: Utah at Lobos, 6 p.m.
Saturday: BYU at Lobos, 5 p.m.
GoLobos.com: GameTracker, LoboTV, stats, recap
By Richard Stevens -- Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In many ways, the University of New Mexico Lobos women's soccer team couldn't have scripted its final week at home any better. There is drama, emotion and top-notch soccer.
The Lobos get to give a home-field goodbye to four special Lobos -- three seniors and junior Kerrin Stephan, whose injuries forced her to walk away from soccer.
"I've been injured most of the time I've been here. It's been rough," said Stephan. "My teammates have helped me through this whole process."
There will be some emotions, and maybe a few tears, when the Lobos say goodbye to those four teammates. There also should be some emotion between the lines when UNM takes to the pitch.
The No. 25 ranked Lobos (8-1-3, 2-0-0 MWC) also get to battle the two other Mountain West Conference teams who enter this week with no losses on their league slate. UNM plays host to Utah at 6 p.m. Thursday and to Brigham Young at 5 p.m. on Saturday.
The Utah Utes, who struggled in the non-conference part of their slate, are looking at league play to salvage a season and gain momentum for the Nov. 3-6 MWC Championships to be held in San Diego.
The No. 8/11 ranked BYU Cougars are looking to do what they usually do in their run through the MWC -- beat down the opposition and snatch up another regular-season crown. Maybe their last before they bolt to another conference.
The Saturday clash between Lobos and Cougars -- the only MWC teams to crack the national polls -- will be dramatic, pivotal and could determine the 2010 title. But only if the Lobos slap down the Utes on Thursday.
"That's what we're looking for, the MWC crown," said Fields.
Utah is not a team the Lobos can ignore because the Utes' unimpressive overall slate of 3-11-1 includes a MWC mark of 1-0-1. The Utes are looking for new life. Utah also is 10-5-2 all-time against New Mexico and 3-2-1 on the Lobos' home grass.
UNM took a 1-0 win in Salt Lake City in 2009 to avenge the 1-0 win the Utes posted in Albuquerque in 2008.
The Lobos carry a four-game win streak into Thursday's battle, which includes three shutouts for one of the nation's top defensive teams. UNM has a 4-0 win at UNLV and a tooth-and-nail 2-1 win over San Diego State, the team picked to finish second in the MWC behind BYU.
For sure, the Lobos need to be at the top of their game when BYU visits on Saturday. The Cougars are looking to defend their 2009 MWC title. Their ranking and their 11-1-1 record reflects the type of team the Lobos will face on Saturday.
"Well, it's BYU," said Fields. "They are always someone you want to beat and a game you look forward to."
Fields has banged in four goals for the Lobos this season. Junior Jennifer Williams will be a key target for Utes and Cougars. The Lobo striker has 18 points off seven goals and four assists. UNM's Zaneta Wyne and Jordan Craig have scored three goals each and six other Lobos have scored for coach Kit Vela this season.
Defensively, Kelli Cornell has started every game and played all but 45 minutes in net for the Lobos this year. Allowing just four goals all season, Cornell holds a goals-against-average of 0.33 and a save percentage of 92.2%. She owns seven shutouts on the year.
Lambert said the Lobos are looking for a sweep in their quest for the 2010 Mountain West title. This also is the last season for Utah and BYU in the Mountain West Conference. Utah heads to the Pac-10 and BYU goes West Coast.
"Everybody wants to walk away from their time here thinking they have made an impact and improved the program as a whole," said Lambert. "Walking away with two wins on the board let's you leave feeling good."
The Lobos and the Cougars are carbon copies of what it takes to reach this point of the season with only one loss. They are fast and aggressive up front; smart and aggressive in the middle; physical and aggressive on the backside.
"We have a group that meshes so well," said Wyrick. "Our midfield is the hardest-working midfield I've ever seen."
The Cougars had slipped out of the Top Ten, but are back in the No. 8 spot. BYU is at TCU on Thursday and Utah visit's the Horned Frogs on Saturday.
Like UNM's Williams, BYU junior Jennis Marshall has a target on her back as does Cougar Kassidy Shumway. Marshall has seven goals and Shumway has damaged the net with six goals. Shumway tops BYU with 17 points.
BYU has scored 31 goals this season with nine Cougars scoring at least one goal. That's a ten-goal increase from this point in the season in 2009. BYU is 14-2-3 all-time against UNM.
Editor's Note: Richard Stevens is the former Associate Sports Editor and Sports Columnist for The Albuquerque Tribune. You can reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.