Las Cruces, N.M. --- When New Mexico State’s Samantha Sandoval was yellow carded in the final minute of the first overtime stopping the clock on a free kick, it allowed Brooke Ellison a chance to bypass the kick, switching places with the fresher Dylann O’Connor. Good fortune for the Lobos followed.
O’Connor set a 30-yard free kick into the box towards Ellison, who distracted keeper Jessica Shutters enough as O’Connor’s kick sailed into the net on a bounce untouched, giving the Lobos a well-earned road overtime win 1-0 over the New Mexico State Aggies.
The winner was O’Connor’s second career goal, and her second career game-winner, both coming on the road. The goal made a winner out of keeper Cassie Ulrich, who had two saves in posting her first collegiate shutout and win.
“I was just looking for my teammates in the box,” said O’Connor, “Brooke Ellison made a run right in front of the keeper and it through her off and it went in.”
Kit Vela was happy to get a road win, and was happy Ellison and O’Connor switched roles for the winning play. “Usually Brooke Ellison takes those but she was feeling a little fatigued. (Dylann) hit is right on, we had players around it, and it just worked out in our favor.”
The game for the most part was a battle of attrition, although both teams had solid opportunities, despite combining for just 11 shots in regulation.
The Lobos had the best opportunity just three minutes in, as Alexis Leyba had a clear shot from 15-yards out, but Jessica Shutters kicked her leg out to her right in a brilliant reaction save that kept it scoreless early. New Mexico State had its best shot ironically directly off a corner. Mary Kate Koizol’s corner kick used a strong wind to curl back to the net, clanking off the crossbar and bounding away.
New Mexico State’s other first half opportunity was nearly a fluke goal as Ulrich misplayed a back pass, the ball grazing her foot and hitting the outside of the net.
Ulrich made up for the potential mistake later in the half, coming out well to smoother a potential Koizol breakaway, and then with a strong save with nine minutes left on a short range rocket off the foot of Daisy Hernandez.
The win made for a solid weekend as UNM went 1-1-0, losing in the final minutes to No. 24 Texas Tech. With the team heading into a major challenge facing No. 1 and defending national champion North Carolina on Friday and No. 7 Duke on Sunday, the weekend accomplished plenty for Vela.
“This is such a young group. It’s amazing, on Friday night we were in a situation where we had so many brand new players on the field, so they are looking to get experience, and that’s what we are doing next week.”
Notes – The Lobos have now shut out their opponent in the first half in 29 of the last 34 games, dating back to September 18, 2011. UNM has allowed just five first half goals in that time frame … Katie Hinman, Shelbie Luna, and Chandler Zitzmann all saw their first action of the season, and for Hinman, it was the first of her career … UNM has allowed 16 corners on the year, taking just three itself … UNM’s last overtime loss on the road was August 31, 2007, losing at No. 21 Oklahoma State 2-1. The last road overtime loss to an unranked team was Oct. 13, 2006, losing 1-0 at UNLV … UNM has never faced the nation’s No. 1 team before. UNM twice played UCLA when the Bruins were ranked No. 2 nationally.