Lobo Coach Kit Vela takes her team East
Lobo Coach Kit Vela takes her...
Stevens: Vela's Lobos Face A Monster Of The Pitch
Courtesy: New Mexico Athletics  
Release:  08/27/2013

New Mexico Lobos Women's soccer -- at Carolina Nike Classic -- Chapel Hill, N.C. 

Friday:  3 p.m. (MT)  New Mexico vs. No. 1 North Carolina

Sunday: 10 a.m. (MT) New Mexico vs. No. 12 Duke

By Richard Stevens – Senior Writer/GoLobos.com

It is a journey that might bring the shakes to Ulysses’ knees, if he happened to play soccer and was looking at what Kit Vela has in store for her young Lobos.    Vela’s Lobos might not be running toward a six-headed sea monster, but for sure they will be running into a monster of the pitch.

These North Carolina Tar Heels are something special.

“They are good,” said Vela referring to both the No. 1 Tar Heels and No 12 Duke. “We are excited for the experience and the challenge and the opportunity to give our players probably one of the best experiences of a lifetime.”

True, it is special to play soccer in Chapel Hill, N.C., against the women’s program that has won 21 of the 31 NCAA National Championships that have been played.

It’s also the first time the New Mexico women’s program has ever squared off with a No. 1 ranked team.  UNM did play eventual national champ Notre Dame in the first round of the 2010 College Cup and the Lobos have battled a No. 2.

Vela realizes her Lobos are taking a step up the ladder of college soccer, but she thinks that step is necessary for the growth of a young team and the continued growth of her program.

“The experiences that we’ll garner are immeasurable for the future of the program,” she said looking at the visit to Fetzer Field and also the pitch battle with North Carolina.  “(The Tar Heels)  play at the highest level day in and day out.  Their experience goes beyond most of the regular players in college soccer.

“We have (freshmen) who have never seen anything like this.”

Well, actually none of the Lobos have ever seen anything like this.  They have never played a No. 1 ranked team and have never  played in Chapel Hill against North Carolina. The game with the Tar Heel women is followed by a men’s game, so the crowd probably will be exceed 5,000.

If there was a six-headed monster in the crowd, it’s possible that nobody would notice.  What the Lobos have to worry about is the Tar Heels on the pitch.  Consider a few North Carolina facts:

The defending national champs and 21-times champions of soccer have won 92 percent of their games.

They return eight starters off last year’s title team.

They have lost only one time ever in a home opener and stand 30-1-3.

They are 42-2-2 in the various forms of this Carolina Nike Classic.

The Tar Heels are 2-0 so far in 2012 with an impressive 2-0 opening win over No. 9 Santa Clara and a 4-0 roll of VCU.  North Carolina got the goals vs. Santa Clara from senior midfielder Crystal Dunn, the 2012 National Player of the Year, who did not score a goal in regular season in 2012.  Dunn added another goal against VCU, so it looks like the senior has come out of the gates with a hot foot.

“Teams of that caliber, if you don’t play together you are going to get exposed,” said Vela.

Vela’s Lobos do not yet have a starting lineup, but the Lobo coach doesn’t think her lineup will be cast in stone at any point in 2013.

“We have too many young players who need to be out there and they will be out there,” said Vela. “We need to make lineup changes so we can continue to grow.  These young players need to develop mentally, too.  The maturation process isn’t just physical.”

No, but the Lobos should expect some physicality at 3 p.m. (MT), Friday against the Tar Heels.  You don’t win 21 national titles by playing soft.   The Lobos were muscled a bit in their opener vs. No. 24 Texas Tech  (a 1-0 loss) and should expect the same aggressive brand of soccer in North Carolina.

“The only way a young team will be prepared for the conference is to be thrown in the fire now,” said Vela. “That’s why we are playing everyone.  They have to see the field. You get better in training but there are some things you only learn through competition.  You grow up by being on the field.”

The Lobos surely will do some growing against the Tar Heels, but this also is a win-win situation for UNM.   They aren’t given much of a chance of pulling the upset, so there really is no external pressure to win. They also get to run up the field with some of the best players in NCAA ball.

“They need to see where we want to go,” said Vela. “Every experience we take from this weekend is just going to help us down the road.”

New Mexico Lobo women's Soccer Notes -- at the Carolina Nike Classic 

The Lobos will face off against the most storied soccer team in NCAA women’s soccer history when the Lobos face off with defending national champion and current No. 1-ranked North Carolina. The Tar Heels are 2-0-0 on the season, having defeated No. 9 Santa Clara 2-0 in its opener. The Heels also defeated VCU 4-0 over the weekend. Reigning Hermann Award winner Crystal Dunn has three goals, and NCAA College Cup Offensive MVP Kealia Ohai has a pair of goals and an assist. UNC has used three keepers in keeping opponents scoreless so far this year. UNC has won 21 of the 31 NCAA National Championships that have been played.

UNM will continue the North Carolina Nike Classic by taking no No. 7 Duke University, a school 8 miles down the road in Durham. The Blue Devils opened on the road with a win over No. 12 Texas A&M 1-0, and then losing at South Carolina 1-0. Kim DeCesare scored the lone goal against A&M.

About the 2013 Lobos
New Mexico last season went 11-7-2, and advanced to the Mountain West championship game for the third straight season after finishing in second place in the Mountain West. The Lobos return six starters and 11 letterwinners, although they also have five squad members back as well as several redshirts and a host of newcomers (there are officially 16 freshmen on the 35-person roster).

New Mexico is 1-1-0 on the season, having dropped a close, hard fought 1-0 decision to No. 24 Texas Tech on a goal with 4:22 left, and defeating intrastate rival New Mexico State 1-0 in overtime.

Lobos vs. North Carolina and Duke
The Lobos have never played the University of North Carolina, and for that matter, the team has never faced Duke either.

The Lobos are 1-3-0 against the current configuration of the ACC, although only the game two years against Florida State (a 1-0 loss to the No. 9 Seminoles) was against an actual ACC team. The Lobo are 0-1-0 against Notre Dame and 1-1-0 against Syracuse.

The Lobos are 3-0-1 against schools that start with the word North however, going 1-0-0 against both North Dakota and North Dakota State, and 1-0-1 against North Texas.

Lobos vs. Nationally Ranked Foes
Last year UNM went 0-3 against nationally ranked foes, losing on the road for all three, dropping a 3-2 decision at No. 24 Florida, and losing twice at the end of the season at No. 6 San Diego State, losing 1-0 and 2-0 in the Mountain West championship game.

This year the Lobos are 0-1 against nationally ranked opponents, dropping the opener 1-0 to No. 24 Texas Tech. The Lobos are playing a nationally-ranked team for three out of four games, the second time in school history that has happened, and the second under Kit Vela. In 2008, UNM tied No. 24 Wisconsin-Milwaukee, and then after a win over Fairleigh Dickinson, the squad tied No. 25 San Diego 0-0 before losing to No. 2 UCLA 3-0.

Here is UNM’s breakdown against nationally ranked opponents, all under head coach Kit Vela:

Home 1-3-2  Last time: Loss 0-1, 8-23-13 vs. No. 24 Texas Tech
Road 2-12-2 Last time: Loss 0-2, 11-4-12 at No. 6 San Diego State
Neutral 1-2-2  Last time: Loss 1-2, 9-9-11 vs. No. 17 Oregon State
Overall 4-16-6  



Vs. #1 teams 0-0-0
vs. teams ranked 1-10 2-8-0
vs. teams ranked 11-20 1-2-2
vs. teams ranked 21-30 1-7-4

The Lobos have never faced off against the No. 1 team in the nation, but the Lobos have faced off with the No. 2 team twice. In 2008, UNM lost 3-0 at No. 2 UCLA, and three years later, a late rebound goal is all that No. 2 UCLA could get in the opening round of the NCAA College Cup.

Streak Ends at 13
The loss to Texas Tech ended UNM’s a 13-match unbeaten streak at home as UNM had gone 11-0-2 since an overtime loss to Cal State Fullerton in 2011. The Lobos are now 20-2-3 in it’s last 25 home matches.

But This Streak Reaches Four
The 1-0 win over New Mexico State made the Lobos 4-0 against their friends to the south. New Mexico is outscoring the Aggies 8-0 in the series.

When O’Connor Scores It’s Important
Sophomore Dylann O’Connor has scored two goals in her career, both on the road, and both game winners. She had the winner at UC Davis last year as well as the winner against New Mexico State.

It’s Been a While
The win over the Aggies kept an impressive run going. New Mexico hasn’t lost a road overtime game since the opener in 2007, when it lost 2-1 at No. 21 Oklahoma State. Over that time, UNM is 4-0-12 in road overtime games. Overall the Lobos have gone undefeated in overtime in five of the last six years.

It’s Honestly Easier Calling Them by Numbers
It was bound to happen when you have 35 players, but it’s a little confusing out on the pitch these days. The Lobos have two Cassies (Ulrich and Hansen), two Brookes (Webster and Ellison), two Briannas (Webster and Martinez) and three Maddies (Parker, Irwin, and Olguin, who thankfully goes by Madisyn). Just to add to the confusion, there is a Katie (Hinman) and a Katelyn (Almeida) and a Laura (DeMers) and a Lauren (Shull). In the middle of all of that are two Websters, as sisters Brianna and Brooke are on the team.

Want to Keep This Trend Going

Last season the Lobos allowed four first half goals all season. The team had a 0.20 goals against average in the opening half of games this year. Only Texas, Wyoming, Nebraska and San Diego State scored goals against the Lobos in the first half last year.

The Lobos kept both Texas Tech and New Mexico State off the board in the opening halves this year, and UNM has now pitched a first half shutout in 29 or its last 34 matches, a streak dating back to Sept. 18, 2011.

A Nice Debut

Sophomore Cassie Ulrich hadn’t played a match since her final game of high school in 2010, but in her debut in net for the Lobos, she registered seven saves, the most in a season opener by a Lobo keeper since 2003, when Kristin Winters had nine against Oklahoma.

Not a Lot of Caps
At one point against Texas Tech in the opener, the Lobos had seven players on the field who had played in five career games or less.

Hey, They Can All Get Mountain West Scholar-Athlete Now!
This season has already seen the collegiate debuts of seven players (Cassie Ulrich, Tera Trujillo, Brooke Webster, Maddie Irwin, Ruth Bruciaga, Katie Hinman and Savannah Viola), and one Lobo debut (Chandler Zitzmann, who played at Ft. Hays State).

Double Digits Baby...Double Digits
The University of New Mexico women’s soccer team just finished up the greatest four-year run in school history, with a record of 48-19-13 over the past four years. For a fourth consecutive year, the Lobos have won in double-figures.

It marked the first time in school history that UNM has won at least 10 games in four straight seasons. UNM’s best previous streak was three, from 1995-97. UNM’s 48 wins easily topped the 42 wins from 1994-97 as the most wins over any four-year period in school history.

The Lobos have had a winning record for the eighth-straight year, and for the ninth time in Kit Vela’s 12 years at UNM. Prior to Vela’s arrival, the school had four winning seasons in eight seasons.

Vela Hits the Century Mark
Kit Vela now has 105 career wins, and that number is fourth on the all-time Mountain West charts. She has a chance to move into the No. 2 spot this season. Jennifer Rockwood tops the chart as she had 221 for BYU, Marty Buckley had 113 for Air Force, and Rick Manning had 110 for Utah.

Backed into a Corner 

Through the opening weekend, the Lobos have conceded 16 corner kicks, earning just four themselves.

Nare on the Field as per Usual
Kelli Cornell owns the all-time record for minutes played at UNM with 7,702. The closest current Lobo to that mark is Liz Nare, who has played in 5,951 minutes. Nare would need for UNM to play 22 games and never leave the field to catch Cornell.

While catching her former keeper will be tricky, she should easily eclipse the record for minutes played by a field player, which is just 7,139 minutes by Jayme Dieringer. She should pass her at some point during conference play. Against North Carolina she should become just the 11th player in program history to record 6,000 minutes.

Fans Around here LOVE Their Lobos
In 2012, for the third year in a row, the New Mexico Lobos have finished fourth nationally in attendance. UNM in 2012 averaged 1,781 fans over its five home games.

The average was the fourth-highest in school history, and in the last three years, UNM has recorded three of the four highest attendance totals in school history.

The Lobos have now finished in the top 20 in attendance in eight straight years, and in the top 10 in six of those eight, with four straight.

New Mexico achieved the fourth-best attendance of all-time at UNM despite never playing a 7 p.m. match, instead playing twice at 6, once at 5, once at 4, and once at 11 a.m.

NCAA Attendance Figures
Year Pl. Total Gms Avg
2012 4th 8,903 5 1,781
2011 4th 22,350 11 2,032
2010 4th 11,716 6 1,953
2009 7th 13,572 9 1,508
2008 5th 13,449 9 1,494
2007 14th 7,838 7 1,120
2006 17th 8,995 9 999
2005 7th 16,632 9 1,848
2004 8th 7,205 6 1,200

Lobos Picked Second in Mountain West Preseason Poll
The Mountain West Conference got a whole lot bigger for women’s soccer in 2013 with the addition of three new teams, but the Lobos are predicted to be right near the top of the heap. In a vote of the league’s 11 coaches, UNM was selected to finish second in the preseason poll, behind No. 11 San Diego State.

The Lobos picked up one first place vote and 86 points overall, finishing 13 points behind the Aztecs and nine ahead of UNLV and Utah State, who tied for third with 77 points. Last season the Lobos finished second and lost in the Mountain West championship game to the Aztecs. The Lobos have finished first in 2010 and 2011, and won the Mountain West Tournament in 2011. The team hosts the 2013 Mountain West Tournament, which has been expanded to eight teams this season.

New Mexico, under 13th year head coach Kit Vela, returns five starters and 11 letterwinners from last year’s 11-7-2 squad. That team was the fourth straight Lobo squad to pick up double-digit wins, a school record streak. The Lobos have advanced to the Mountain West championship game in each of the last three seasons. This season is the 20th anniversary of the women’s team at New Mexico.

“After losing two big classes the last two years, we are flattered,” said Vela. “I think we are a very good team and it’s a very good conference. (San Diego State) is good but I think we are all good in this conference. I’m please that they respect us and I think we will have a very good showing this year.”

The Lobos, who played just five home matches all of last year, will play 10, including hosting the Jack In The Box Classic in September, along with major conference opponents in Texas Tech and Michigan State. The Mountain West jumped from eight teams to 11 as Colorado State added women’s soccer and San José State and Utah State joined the conference.

2013 Mountain West Women’s Soccer Preseason Poll

Pl.   Team (1st place votes)  Points  
 1.  San Diego State (9)  99
2.  New Mexico (1)   86
3.   UNLV (1) 77 
  Utah State  77
5.   Boise State 61 
6.  Fresno State  52 
7.  Wyoming  45 
8.  Nevada  43 
9.  San José State 31 
10.   Air Force 20 
11.  Colorado State  12 
Monday, August 17
7:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Fort Lewis (exhibition)
Friday, August 21
5:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
at USC vs. Texas Tech
7:30 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Florida State
Sunday, August 23
10:30 AM - 
Women's Soccer
at USC vs. Florida State
1:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
vs. Texas Tech
Wednesday, August 26
6:00 PM - 
Women's Soccer
at New Mexico State