Stevens: Fishbein's 2012 Schedule Is a Crowd-Pleaser -- As Usual
May 28, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Soccer - 2012 Schedule
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
To wrap up Coach Jeremy Fishbein's scheduling philosophy in a short phrase, you might go with: "Fish dodges nobody."
And that's true. The fiery and intense University of New Mexico Lobos men's soccer coach knows that you don't become one of the top soccer programs in the nation by scheduling cupcakes and assorted pastries.
You also don't attract some of the top soccer players in the nation by playing down. "We have an obligation to our players and to our fans," said Fishbein.
But can the Lobos play who they play in 2012 and expect to roll out another undefeated season?
Well, that's the plan.
"Of course, we want to win and we play to win," said Fishbein. "The scoreboard matters. But our mentality really isn't geared toward our record as much as it's competing against the best and doing what it takes to be the best. You don't get better with easy games."
For sure, the Lobos were one of the best teams in the nation in 2011 as they rolled into - and out of - the NCAA Championships with an unblemished slate. UNM (18-0-4) was bumped out of the playoffs in a shootout, which counts as a tie on the Lobos' record.
The Lobos went undefeated and soared to the No. 1 spot in the national rankings in spite of a playing one of the tougher schedules in the nation.
That's the plan again. New Mexico will play seven non-conference foes that made it into the 2011 NCAA bracket: UCLA, Southern Methodist, Dartmouth, Cal Irvine, Fairfield, Northern Illinois and the University of Alabama at Birmingham.
"It's a great schedule, a challenging schedule," said Fishbein. "We do that for our program and our players, but also for our fans. We have great fans and we appreciate what they give to us. What we try to give to them is high-level soccer at against an opponent that our fans want to see us play.
"We play five straight non-conference home games against teams that played in the NCAA tournament last year."
That grueling stretch at Lobo Field from Sept. 8 to Sept. 23 is UAB, Dartmouth, Cal Irvine, Fairfield and Northern Illinois.
The Lobos open their season with two exhibition matches on the road at Cal State Northridge (Aug. 16) and San Diego State (Aug. 18).
If you thought Fishbein was going to inch slowly into the meat of his 2012 schedule, you were wrong. He has his Lobos opening up the regular season on Aug. 24 at UCLA. The Bruins made it to the Final Four last year, losing to eventual national champion North Carolina in a shootout.
This is a mean, mother bear of an opener -- and on the road.
"Our goal is to play the best and that means you play some of them on the road," said Fishbein. "It will be a great opening test for our guys. We'll see if they're ready."
The Lobos follow up their Aug. 24 game at UCLA with an Aug. 31 game at Tulsa. Tulsa was not an NCAA team in 2012, but this is a traditional soccer power that went to the NCAA dance in the four previous seasons. UNM also will play SMU, an NCAA qualifier, in the Tulsa Tournament.
The Lobos have a Sept. 29 non-conference battle with Houston Baptist before opening up Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) play Oct. 5 at Air Force. The Lobos won the MPSF crown in 2011, finishing 10-0 in league play. The Lobos will play host to the 2012 MPSF Tournament Nov. 8-11 with the league's automatic NCAA bid on the line.
The Lobos finished the 2011 regular season No. 3 in the nation in attendance with a 3,749 average. UNM was the only MPSF team to average more than 1,000 fans a game and only 26 of the nation's 201 D-I teams drew more than 1,000 fans per game.
The quality of soccer that the Lobos throw out for their fans obviously is a reason for that success at the gate. However, Fishbein also believes in giving Lobo fans a quality match to witness.
"Our fans are one of the reasons we have the program we have," said Fishbein. "They want to see us play quality opponents and that's what we want, too.
"We also recruit guys who want to play against the best teams and the best players. We have an obligation to our players to pit them against NCAA-type teams which means they go against the top players in the nation."
NEW MEXICO LOBOS MEN'S SOCCER 2012 SCHEDULE
Nov. 8-11 (Thur-Sun) MPSF Tournament at UNM's Lobo Field