Lobo Women's Soccer
Season Opener: Aug. 22 at Texas Tech
Home Openers: Aug. 29 -- Cherry/Silver game; Sept. 12 vs. Loyola-Chicago
By Greg Archuleta
UNM Assistant Director of Communications
It’s a bit ironic that the one chance the woman, who co-owns the record for the most games played for the University of New Mexico women’s soccer team, had to watch her alma mater got canceled.
It’s about the only blip on Kelli Cornell’s post-UNM career.
“I had planned to go see a Lobo game in November,” says Cornell, who moved back home to San Clemente, Calif., after getting her master’s degree in business administration in 2013 (she received her bachelor’s degree in 2012). “But there was a shooting at LAX (Los Angeles International Airport), and my flight was canceled.”
It was Cornell’s only chance – so far – because the former Lobo goalie has been on the go since returning to California. She is a staffing manager at Robert Half International, an assistant soccer coach at her alma mater at San Clemente High School and a member of the Beach Futbol Club of the Women’s Premier Soccer League.
“I’m blessed to be able to continue playing,” Cornell says. “I love the game.”
It showed during her four-year career at UNM from 2009-12. She started 82 games during her career, tied for the most by a Lobo with Liz Nare (2010-13). Cornell holds the Lobo record for the longest shutout streak, going 545 minutes and 19 seconds without being scored upon in 2012. That included a record five consecutive shutouts (tied with the 1993 season).
Cornell twice was the Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in 2010 and 2011. She was the New Mexico Hall of Fame Collegiate Female Athlete of the Year in 2011.
When asked how much those accomplishments mean to her, Cornell said, “It was never about personal accolades for me; it was more about how successful the team was. It was just great that I was able to come in and help make a difference.”
Cornell was part of the last two Lobo teams to advance to the NCAA Tournament in 2010 and 2011. She counts UNM’s 1-0 double-overtime home victory over Brigham Young in 2010 that helped UNM clinch the regular-season Mountain West championship as her favorite single memory.
But it was not her only fond memory – not by a long shot.
“I miss the girls I played with, the relationships we had,” she says. “There’s nothing like the college experience; you eat, sleep and practice with 30 girls. I miss the competition, the traveling, the team-bonding. And I love Albuquerque.”
She says she still talks regularly to former teammates Stephanie Rowe and Shelby Luna.
Cornell also said her student life at UNM was invaluable. She graduated Magna Cum Laude both as an undergraduate and as a graduate student. She was an Academic All-Mountain West honoree as well as a Mountain West and Lobo Scholar Athlete in each of her four years from 2009-12. Cornell also earned CoSIDA/ESPN Academic All-District first-team honors in 2010 and 2012.
“Getting my MBA was very important as I ventured out into the business world,” she said. “My whole experience was fantastic in school and in soccer – learning about leadership, discipline, time management, team work and developing a strong work ethic has helped me immensely.”
Asked whether there was anything she didn’t miss, Cornell offered a laugh.
“Practicing double-days … the preseason … the springs were brutal,” she says. “And I’m glad I never have to do another fitness test again.”
However, she was quick to add that she misses her chile fix, which may have contributed to her struggles with the fitness tests.
“I miss the food!” Cornell laments. “I haven’t had any decent green chile since I’ve been back in California.”
Cornell says she still follows the Lobos, watching streams of their games last year online. And through her Beach FC team – which she joined after the team’s first five games and is currently 10-0 – she found another Lobo fix when Beach FC played the Tucson Soccer Academy that features current Lobos in goalkeeper Laura DeMers and midfielder/defender Maddie Irwin.
That encounter also has enabled her to keep up with Lobo coach Kit Vela.
“I talked to her on the phone last month,” Cornell says. “It was great to touch base with her. She asked how I was doing and then asked how they (DeMers and Irwin) were doing.”
Cornell joined Beach FC in hopes of keeping her professional soccer aspirations alive.
“I would be very open to any offers,” she says. “Unfortunately, there are no professional teams in California. So right now, I’m just seeing how it goes.”
And if her playing career doesn’t reach the professional level, she can always use her UNM master’s degree in business to help her someday buy a professional women’s team.
Or better yet, she can buy her own plane so she can come back and watch the Lobos anytime she wants.