ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – With one senior on her team, University of New Mexico women’s soccer coach Kit Vela could be forgiven for scaling back on her 2014 schedule to build confidence.
If only that were the case.
The Lobos’ schedule features three ranked nonconference teams from 2013, highlighted by UNM’s Sept. 14 home game against perennial powerhouse Florida.
“My philosophy in scheduling is to play a nonconference schedule that prepares us for conference,” said Vela, who is entering her 14th year as Lobo boss. “We also want to compete at the highest level possible, and that means playing the best teams we can.”
The Gators were a top-10 program last season, are NCAA Tournament regulars and were the 1998 national champions.
“To play them at home is huge for us,” Vela said.
That’s because Vela understands that a program like New Mexico, perennial Mountain West contenders, often must travel to find the best competition. This season, the Lobos have games at Texas Tech and Marquette, both in the top 20 in the NCAA.com rankings last season.
“You have to challenge yourselves,” Vela said. “We’ve always scheduled three or four Top-25 teams. Otherwise, how do you learn the lessons you need to make yourselves better?”
Vela says the preparation is key for the Mountain West, which is expanding to 12 teams with the addition of Colorado College in 2014.
“It’s always a dogfight, but I think we’ll be ready to compete,” Vela said. “We have a young team, but we’re going to be more dynamic. Will we make some mistakes along the way? Sure, but I think we’ll make up for mistakes with effort, attitude, hustle and heart. We don’t get rattled; we’re a team that’s going to be fun and exciting to watch.”
Click here to view the Lobo women's soccer team's 2014 schedule.