Albuquerque, N.M. --- A fluky goal that deflected off a Lobo defender and past a stunned Cassie Ulrich was the only goal of the match, giving the Michigan State Spartans a 1-0 victory over the New Mexico Lobos in a game that UNM pretty much owned the run of play throughout the match.
New Mexico outshot the Spartans 18-6, including 7-4 on net. UNM twice hit the cross bar in the second half. The first came off a Dylann O’Connor corner kick that was headed across by Dannah Lakin to Alexis Leyba. Leyba’s header from 15 yards out easily beat reserve keeper Gabrielle Garuder, but it clanged off the crossbar and was cleared. With 13 minutes left, O’Connor crossed the top of the box and let go a left-footed rocket that hit the bar and bounded straight to Elba Holguin, whose shot just went wide.
Those were two of UNM’s several solid opportunities in the game. O’Connor found herself alone early in the match after a Madisyn Olguin pass but slipped it just wide.
Despite the missed opportunities, UNM controlled the pace of play, but with the score stuck at 0-0, a fluky bounce could spell doom, and it did. With just under eight minutes to go, Nicole Caruso had the ball inside of UNM’s half, and found a little space, letting go a shot from about 30-yards out that would have sailed well wide. Keeper Cassie Ulrich, who had four saves including a couple of splendid diving stops, went out to get it, but the ball hit the leg of defended Liz Nare.
The momentum of the ball sent it inside the near post as Ulrich could do nothing but helplessly watch as all her momentum was going the other way.
The Lobos had a chance to tie it late, when Olguin got free in the box, but her shot labeled for the lower far corner was saved by Garuder, who also prevented a rebound with O’Connor lurking in front.
“I thought we played really, really well at times and did the right things,” said Kit Vela. “But you know when you hit too many posts, and I guess panic is the best word, in front of the goal a couple of times…the keeper made some great saves.”
“I mean there’s nothing you can do about it. You make your luck and today we just couldn’t make our luck. I think it’s a little bit of a character check for our girls,” Vela added.
Garuder entered the game in place of starter Courtney Clem when she collided on the ground with UNM’s Ruth Bruciaga on a loose ball in the box. Clem was visibly woozy on the field, and had blood from her mouth splattered on her gray keeper jersey. She was the second player within five minutes to leave the field bloodied. UNM’s Annie Wheeler, on the pitch for all of 50 seconds, got tangled up and went into the turf near the far side hard, suffering a gash across her nose.
Neither Clem nor Wheeler returned to the match.
Garuder earned her first collegiate win, recording five saves. Clem, whom she shared the shutout with, had two. Along with the sizeable advantage in shots, the Lobos had eight corners to Michigan State’s two. New Mexico now heads on the road for a pair of games in California as a part of the Saint Mary’s Classic. UNM will face Saint Mary’s at 5 p.m. Mountain Time on Friday, and Pacific on Sunday at noon Mountain Time.
NOTES: UNM is now 1-2-0 at home this season after going 18-1-3 over the previous three seasons … Ulrich’s goals against average inched up slightly from 0.78 to 0.82 … New Mexico has now shutout its opponents in the first half in 32 of the last 38 games dating back to Sept. 18, 2011 … there were no offsides in the match.