Stevens: Undefeated Lobos Knocked Out Of NCAA in penalty-kick Loss
Nov. 27, 2011
New Mexico Lobo Men's Soccer - NCAA Championships
South Florida defeats Lobos 6-5 sudden-death penalty kicks
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
In probably the cruelest way a soccer game can be twisted, two extremely talented teams abandoned the way the game was meant to be played and placed their season and their NCAA life on the line in a sudden-death penalty-kick situation.
And the Lobos' magic ended in Tampa, Fla.
The New Mexico Lobos and the South Florida Bulls went neck-and-neck and shot-for shot until South Florida keeper Chris Blais stuffed Lobos' Carson Baldinger'slow roller on New Mexico's seventh kick in the sudden-death thriller.
South Florida advanced with the 6-5 sudden-death score formed after the two teams played 0-0 through regulation and two overtimes.
The Lobos had the first crack in the sudden-death format when UNM keeper Victor Rodriguez made a save on the Bull's third shot. However, Blais came right back to stop the screamer by Lobo Blake Smith.
South Florida and UNM went shot-for-shot until Blais, a graduate student playing in his tenth NCAA game, came up with the heroics on UNM's seventh shot.
It was an unlucky seven for UNM.
It was an odd ending of an undefeated season for the Lobos, who technically ended 2011 without a loss. However, it is the South Florida Bulls who march on in NCAA play while the 18-0-4 Lobos deal with the pain of the NCAA loss.
The two teams battled through regulation and two 10-minute extra periods with neither team violating the other team's net. The Lobos had several finishing opportunities late in the game, but barely missed their chance.
Lobo James Rogersalmost ended it for UNM in the second overtime as he ripped a shot from the right side of the UNM attack that slipped past Blais, but also slipped past the far side of the South Florida net.
UNM's Devon Sandovalhad a chance at glory near the end of the second half when a clearing mistake by Blais produced a shot for Sandoval about 20 feet in front of the Bulls' net.
Blais made up for his mistake by making a sensational dive to his left to knock down Sandoval's shot.
The Lobos dominated both overtime periods with an aggressive attack they were not always able to generate during regulation. The Bulls seemed more willing to take their chances with a sudden-death kick format. UNM took three shots in the first extra period and one in the second OT. The Bulls did not get off an overtime shot.
UNM's Lance Rozeboomand Green converted the Lobos' first two penalty shots in sudden death before Rodriguez gave UNM a shot at victory with his save. UNM's Smith tried to beat Blais to the keeper's left side, but the Bull knocked down the shot.
UNM then got goals from Devon Sandoval, Kyle Venter and Mathew Gibbons.When Blais knocked down Baldinger's shot, the Bull fans mobbed the field as Baldinger dropped to his knees in obvious disappointment. The crowd of 3,592 at Corbett Soccer Stadium was a stadium record.
"I tried to keep my ground as long as I could, so he didn't know which way I was going," Blais said on the South Florida web site of his final stop. "I went the right way and when I saw the ball leave his foot I knew I was going to save it. Those are the feelings you work really hard for in college."
The Bulls advance to Saturday's Elite Eight battle at No. 2 seeded Creighton, which beat UC-Santa Barbara, 2-1, on Sunday.
The game stats reflected the play of two talented NCAA teams not wanting to end their seasons in the third-round of the playoffs. New Mexico and South Florida each took 10 shots on the night. UNM had three on net and the Bulls had two shots on goal.
1. 110:00 USFM Baldin, Lucas Shootout