May 3, 2006
After one of the best spring seasons in program history, things are looking bright around the University of New Mexico women's soccer department. New Mexico compiled a 2-1-3 record against its collegiate opponents during the spring, including a draw against the 2005 national runner-up UCLA Bruins and road wins over Cal Poly and Northern Arizona.
But while spring scores and records matter little in the fall, the Lobos displayed the kind of effort, enthusiasm and conditioning in March and April that wins championships in November. Head coach Kit Vela didn't hesitate when asked how her team performed during the spring season.
"This was the best spring this team has ever had," said Vela. "We were 19 players deep and they all played all spring. We saw huge improvements by the (2005) freshmen and the older players are taking this program to a level it's never seen. In the weight room, we're doing amazing things. This is the most motivated team we've ever seen. This spring is going to set the tone for the future of the program."
Following its undefeated trip to California, New Mexico returned home and tied traditional regional power Colorado College 0-0 on April 15 at the UNM Soccer Complex.
"It was a good game and we did a lot of things that we've been training at," Vela said. "We hit the crossbar several times, just couldn't score a goal, but the game itself was well-played and showed the progress that we've made."
The Lobos returned to the road for an April 22 doubleheader in Flagstaff, Ariz. against Pac-10 foe Arizona State and Northern Arizona. UNM opened with a tough 2-1 loss to ASU in a game that was cut 20 minutes short when the field sprinklers came on in the second half.
"That was probably our worst game of the spring, but it was good in a way because it showed us what happens when we don't show up to play," Vela said. "ASU is a well-known, good reputation team and we lost 2-1 in a game which we played miserably, but we really turned it around in the afternoon."
An inspired Lobo squad took out its frustration on the host Lumberjacks in game two, pounding NAU 3-0. Vela said she was most pleased with her team's intensity and fitness in the second game as well as its ability to convert its chances on the offensive end.
"It wasn't the 3-0 score, because I really didn't care about that, but we were fit and we were strong," she said. "Physically we were right where we wanted to be at this point in the spring. That game showed that when we're willing to play within our game plan, we can do some really good things and that's really what made it a great wrap-up of the spring."
While a strong spring has laid the foundation, Vela said the players' commitment to individual training during the summer will be critical to the team's fall success.
"We're in a good place, but we can't sit on our laurels and be content with having a good spring because the spring record doesn't mean anything in the fall, it's a developmental time," she said. "I told the seniors, how well they lead and train in the summer will go a long way towards determining how special this coming season can be."
2006 ALUMNI GAMEPlayers from throughout the 13-year history of the UNM women's soccer program gathered at the Robertson Field practice facility on April 29 for an afternoon of camaraderie and competition at this year's Alumni Game. The 2006 Lobos took on a team of 20 former players from the 1990s and 2000s, including 2005 seniors Kristen Winters, Nicole Pitcock and Nicole McCarty, the event organizer.
While the final score had little importance, head coach Kit Vela said the game helped to celebrate and enrich the women's soccer tradition at the University of New Mexico.
"There was an awesome turnout and with all the friends and family watching, it was a great environment to play in as well," Vela said. "We had a lot of players from the early years of the program come back and people traveled from as far as Washington and Belgium to take part. We also had a lot of former players who live here in town tell us that after seeing our team play, they're looking forward to coming to all of our games next fall."
Some of the former players who took part in the 2006 alumni game included:
Rachael Addison - 2001-03
Michelle Black - 1994-97
Renee Gonzales - 1994-97
Heidi Greco - 1996-99
Michelle Longmire - 1999-2002
Lana Melendres - 1996-99
Linda Melendres - 1999-2002
Nicole McCarty - 2001-05
Michelle Nowfel - 1999-2002
Danielle Pecastaing - 1998-2001
Nicole Pitcock - 2002-05
Stephanie Rider - 1994-97
Erchen Theys - 2000-03
Dayna Thompson - 1995-98
Kristen Winters - 2000-05
LOCAL LOOK-OUTWhile the spring season has come to an end for the UNM players, the Lobo coaching staff will be hard at work over the next few months looking for players, particularly around the state of New Mexico, to add to the team in 2007. Since taking over the program in 2001, head coach Kit Vela has made a commitment to keeping some of the best local high school talent at home at UNM.
In 2004, the Lobo roster featured 13 players from the state of New Mexico, the most in program history. Last year, eight players from the Land of Enchantment helped the Lobos reach the Mountain West Conference Tournament championship game. Vela said she hopes to get oral commitments for 2007 from several of the state's top seniors before the fall begins.
"We're always on the lookout for good soccer players in this state that best fit our program," Vela said. "We saw some great things out of our New Mexico players last fall and during the spring, and we definitely want to build on that."