ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. - Head coach Jeremy Fishbein and the University of New Mexico men's soccer team have been selected as the preseason favorite to win Conference USA the league announced Wednesday. In voting done by the league's head coaches the Lobos received seven out of nine first-place votes and were pegged as clear favorites.
"It's great to be thought of highly by your peers," Fishbein said. "I'm proud of our team, and I'm excited for the season, but our focus right now is on the preseason. We haven't given much thought to conference play because that's still a ways off."
The Lobos (14-6-2, 7-1-1) won the conference regular-season title in 2013 in their inaugural season in C-USA and advanced to the College Cup for the second time in nine years. Charlotte, which won the 2013 C-USA Tournament, was picked second with one of the other first-place votes, and UAB was voted third and received the final first-place vote. The Lobos must travel to face each of those teams this season.
"There's going to be some great competition within the conference," Fishbein said, "but we have a team that's going to embrace the pressure. This is a really tough conference to compete in."
Senior defender Mathew Gibbons and junior midfielder Ben McKendry were named to the Preseason All-Conference USA Team. The pair are the leading returners in terms of minutes played from last year's College Cup squad with McKendry (1,887) narrowly edging out Gibbons(1,835).
"We have a lot of players that are deserving of being named to the All-Conference team," Fishbein said. "I'm confident that at the end of the season we'll have more than two Lobos on the All-Conference team. I'm happy for Matty and Ben, but first and foremost it's a team game, and any individual success guys may have is a result of the team's effort."
McKendry was a First Team All-Conference USA selection as a sophomore last season after tallying five goals and one assist while starting all 22 matches for the Lobos. The Vancouver native scored the only goal in UNM's win at No. 2 Washington in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament last Dec. 7.
A native of Rotura, New Zealand, Gibbons played over 1,800 minutes for a third straight season in 2013 and helped the Lobos record 11 shutouts from his left back position. He earned All-Conference USA second team honors after recording two assists in 20 matches.
The Lobos begin preseason action with an exhibition match at the UNM Soccer Complex against Fort Lewis College at 7 p.m. on Monday, August 18. UNM's regular-season opener is a home match versus Akron on Friday, August 29 at 7 p.m.
Update: The Lobos were ranked No. 5 by the NSCAA in its annual preseason poll. It's the highest preseason ranking for UNM by the NSCAA since the Lobos were No. 3 in the 2006 preseason poll.
2014 Preseason C-USA Men's Soccer Poll
1. New Mexico (7)
2. Charlotte (1)
3. UAB (1)
4. Old Dominion
5. South Carolina
9. Florida Atlantic
(#) - designates first-place votes
Preseason Offensive Player of the Year
Freddy Ruiz, F, UAB
Preseason Defensive Player of the YearMahamoudou Kaba, D, South Carolina
2014 Preseason All-Conference USA Men's Soccer Team
Kyle Parker, F, Charlotte
Quentin Albrecht, F, FIU
Callum Irving, GK, Kentucky
Mathew Gibbons, D, New Mexico
Ben McKendry, MF, New Mexico
Mahamoudou Kaba, D, South Carolina
Braeden Troyer, D, South Carolina
Alex Clay, MF, UAB
Darion Copeland, D, UAB
Diego Navarette, F, UAB
Freddy Ruiz, F, UAB
Lobo Pride Pass
Lobo Pride Passes are on sale now. For just $50 fans can gain access to both home exhibition matches and all 11 regular-season matches at the UNM Soccer Complex. The purchaser will also be able to attend all ticketed women's soccer, volleyball, track and field, softball and baseball home games during the 2014-15 season. The first 500 purchasers will also receive a free red Nike Lobo hat and a $5 concessions voucher. Call (505) 925-LOBO or visit the Lobo Ticket Office in The Pit to order or for more information.