New Mexico Men’s Soccer – 2013 Season Review
By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In looking back on yet another magical season by Jeremy Fishbein’s Lobos, it’s difficult not to focus a bit on what could have been. However, it’s impossible not to reflect and honor what these New Mexico Lobos’ pulled tightly and safely into the vaults of their storied tradition.
The Lobos returned to the NCAA College Cup to become the only New Mexico athletic program to push into a Final Four finish in a tournament format. Fishbein’s Lobos have done it twice and in 2013 did it as the Conference USA champions and as the NCAA’s No. 7 seed.
It was a special ending and maybe only Notre Dame, the eventual national champions, stood between Fishbein’s Lobos and a national title. UNM lost to the Irish in a national semifinal.
“It was an incredible season,” said Fishbein. “I wish we would have been at our best against Notre Dame, but we just didn’t have one of our better games.
“That doesn’t take away from our season. It was special season and the guys were very good most of the year. I could not be prouder of this team.”
The Conference USA title was really a big deal. This is one of the top soccer leagues in NCAA athletics and the Lobos simply rolled to the title.
New Mexico also took home 13 All-Conference USA awards including Fishbein as Coach of the Year and Kyle Venter as MVP and Defensive Player of the Year. Christopher Wehan was named as the league’s Freshman of the Year and also was selected to College Soccer News’ 2013 All-Freshman Third Team.
It was a banner year for these Lobos and maybe even more spectacular considering they were carrying the addition pressure that comes with playing soccer for New Mexico. The Lobos were no surprise and no secret in 2013. The program was 18-0-4 in 2011 and in 2012 the preseason No. 2 ranked squad ended the season in the NCAA Sweet 16 and ranked in the Top 10.
The Lobos of 2013 had some weight to carry.
The teams of Conference USA knew the Lobos were coming and those teams couldn’t stop this motivated and talented team of Lobos. UNM once again pushed into the Sweet 16 and was only one of three teams to do it for the third consecutive year.
“This team embraced what every other Lobo team has embraced which is a core value of our program,” said Fishbein. “When we play, we represent the state of New Mexico and the University of New Mexico. That responsibility brings a tremendous sense of pride and a tremendous drive to win for everyone and everything you represent.”
Win, the Lobos did. It took the 2013 National Champions to end the Lobos’ (14-6-2) season, but New Mexico once again finished in the Top Ten of the final rankings: No. 3 in TopDrawerSoccer and No. 4 in both the NSCAA and College Soccer News.
“We kept the bar at a high level. We have high expectations,” said Fishbein. “We expect to play for a national championship every year and the pride and the drive in this program never changes. This team had an amazing season and played at an amazing level most of the way.”
Kyle Venter returned as the senior star of this group and lived up to expectations. He was named to TopDrawerSoccer’s National Best XI First Team (top 11 players in nation). He became the program’s first three-time All-American and took over the top spot in career minutes played with 7,859. He became the first Lobo to be named to a Senior CLASS Award team, which is given to only ten collegiate soccer players a year.
Venter wasn’t the only senior who went out a winner. “We had four seniors who are going to be missed,” said Fishbein referring to UNM’s terrific trio of Michaels: keeper Michael Lisch, midfielder Michael Kafari and midfielder Michael Calderon.
Kyle Venter, Calderon and Kafari went on to participate in the MLS Combine. The 2014 MLS SuperDraft will be held on Thursday (Jan. 16) in New York City. Five Lobos were named to the NSCAA Midwest All-Region Team: Venter, and Calderon to the first team and Kafari, Mathew Gibbons and McKendry to the third team.
Calderon also was named a third-team All-American by College Soccer News. Venter and James Rogers were named to the Capital One Academic All-District team.
“Kyle was here for five seasons but each one of these seniors contributed in a special way and I think they all achieved what they wanted to achieve in coming here,” said Fishbein.
Yeah, when you come to play for Fishbein there are a few things you are usually chasing with high expectations of success: A conference title and a shot at NCAA glory. Both of those things came to the 2013 Lobos and left the teasing taste of “almost.”
“The guys got a taste of it,” Fishbein said of his team’s run through the NCAA bracket. “Our goal is to be better next year, but that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re going back to the Final Four.”
Soccer can be a cruel game of opportunities, fleeting moments and inches. Most of those factors came New Mexico’s way because they do so many things the right way. However, there was a point in 2013 – three consecutive losses at home -- where the Lobos had to do some soul searching. They found what they were looking for because it had never left.
“We had a couple of hiccups and those losses were painful,” said Fishbein. “I couldn’t believe we lost three straight at home. But the guys never lost focus and never doubted the process. Sometimes the bad experiences, the losses, help you mature as players and as a team. The guys did an excellent job of staying the course”
Sometimes a loss also reminds an athlete of how distasteful it is to lose. The Lobos rallied to lose only one game in their next nine and snatched the Conference USA crown. The Lobos then beat George Mason (1-0) and Penn State (2-0) in NCAA action in Albuquerque and then won the program’s first Elite Eight game on the road – 1-0 at No. 2 seed Washington. It was Washington’s first home loss of the season.
“This is what we expect to achieve every year, so it’s not unexpected,” said Fishbein. “We are here to play for a national championship and the guys did that. We finished strong and that’s the mark of a good team and a good program. It meant a lot to be in the Final Four. It meant a lot to this team, but it also reflects on every Lobo who has contributed to this program.
“I think our guys realized how special the season was and enjoyed what they accomplished. The positives of the season were immense.”
2013 New Mexico Lobos -- 2013 College Cup Semifinalists
|Hometown (Prev School)|
|0||Michael Lisch||GK||6-4||175||Sr.||TR||Austin, Texas (Wake Forest)|
|1||Patrick Poblete||GK||6-4||190||RJr.||2L||Scottsdale, Ariz. (Brophy Prep HS)|
|2||Adrian Mora Delgado||MF||5-9||170||Jr.||2L||Alajuela, Costa Rica (Universidad Latina)|
|3||Mathew Gibbons||D||5-9||165||Jr.||2L||Rotorua, New Zealand (Hamilton Boys HS)|
|4||Riley McGovern||D||6-2||176||RJr.||2L||Farmington, N.M. (Farmington HS)|
|5||Nick Miele||D||6-4||190||Jr.||2L||Albuquerque, N.M. (St. Pius X HS)|
|6||Ben McKendry||MF||5-11||150||So.||1L||Vancouver, B.C. (Templeton Secondary)|
|7||James Rogers||F/MF||5-8||150||Jr.||2L||Sierra Leone (Poudre HS)|
|9||Joe Harris||MF||6-0||180||RFr.||RS||Wellington, New Zealand (Kapiti College)|
|00||Kevin Armstrong||GK||6-2||175||RFr.||TR||Laguna Niguel, Calif. (West Virginia)|
|10||Michael Kafari||MF||6-1||175||Sr.||3L||Accra, Ghana (Centennial HS)|
|11||Michael Calderon||MF||5-8||155||Sr.||1L||San Jose, Costa Rica (Fairleigh Dickinson)|
|12||Kyle Venter||D||6-3||190||RSr.||3L||Aurora, Colo. (Smoky Hill HS)|
|14||Christopher Wehan||MF||5-9||145||RFr.||RS||Laguna Niguel, Calif. (Aliso Niguel HS)|
|15||Chris Gurule||D||6-4||190||RFr.||RS||Longmont, Colo. (Niwot HS)|
|16||Nick Thiros||MF||5-10||160||Fr.||HS||Layton, Utah (Layton HS)|
|17||Nicholas Rochowski||D||6-3||180||RFr.||RS||Flower Mound, Texas (Flower Mound HS)|
|18||Lucas Seligman||MF||5-8||150||Fr.||HS||Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva)|
|19||Josh Dye||MF||6-2||180||RSo.||1L||Albuquerque, N.M. (La Cueva HS)|
|20||Josh Goss||MF||5-9||150||Fr.||HS||Albuquerque, N.M. (Pinnacle Education HS)|
|21||Oniel Fisher||D/MF||5-9||155||Jr.||TR||Portmore, Jamaica (Tyler Junior College)|
|22||Rene Reyes||MF/F||6-0||170||So.||TR||Oslo, Norway (Jacksonville University)|
|24||Niko Hansen||MF/F||5-10||160||Fr.||HS||Sacramento, Calif. (Jesuit HS)|
|27||James Wypych||MF||5-11||160||Fr.||HS||Wellington, New Zealand (St. Patrick's College)|
|44||James Schneebeck||GK||5-10||160||Fr.||HS||Albuquerque, N.M. (Albuquerque HS)|