2002 Men's Soccer Outlook
For years, the University of New Mexico mens soccer program had been one of the top programs in the region. In 1997 the Lobos peaked with a No. 15 national ranking, the highest in school history. Unfortunately, for one reason or another, the Lobos never received an invitation to play in the NCAA Tournament. That all came to an end last season when UNM tore through the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship to earn an automatic bid to its first ever NCAA Tournament. The Lobos did not stop there as they upset Florida International in the first round before falling to top-ranked SMU in the second round.
With the 2002 season just around the corner, the Lobos are at a turning point in the programs history. Gone is longtime head coach Klaus Weber, who announced his retirement in June. Also missing are three seniors including, Jovan Batiste, a four-year letter winner and 2nd Team All-MPSF selection, Ty Hibbert, 2nd-Team All-MPSF and Tournament MVP, and Ivan Wilson, All-Tournament team member.
Despite the losses, UNM has reloaded with the talent and expertise needed to make sure the program stays headed in the right direction. To begin with, associate head coach Jeremy Fishbein was promoted to head coach in July. Fishbein brings nine years of head coaching experience to UNM, including a .625 winning percentage in the collegiate ranks. After serving as the recruiting coordinator last season, Fishbein also brings in some of the top talent in the region to go along with an experienced group of returning players.
Leading the returning group of players are senior captains Javier Carrasco and Junro Narita. Both players started every game last season at midfield for the Lobos. Naritas seven goals in 2001 makes him the top returning scorer from last years squad. Narita started and ended 2001 in style. In the season opener against Oral Roberts, he scored twice in his Lobo debut. Against Florida International in the NCAA Tournament, Narita scored the game-winning goal. His return to the Lobos assures UNM of some experienced offensive firepower at the midfield position. Carrasco is one of only two three-year lettermen on the team, and his leadership and experience will be invaluable in the upcoming season. Carrasco nailed his first collegiate goal against Air Force last season. Both of these players have the experience and talent to set an example and lead the way for the rest of the UNM squad.
Also returning to the Lobos is a talented duo of juniors in Micah Newman, and Stian Eriksen. Newman started every game with UNM and his 2000 minutes of action will give him the experience needed to help solidify a strong midfield for the Lobos. Eriksen emerged as one of the top players on the Lobo roster last season, despite the fact that he had not played competitive soccer for over three years. Eriksen was a three-time NCAA qualifying alpine skier for New Mexico but will concentrate solely on soccer in 2002. With the return of Newman and Eriksen, the Lobos will have a very experienced midfield that will be able to set up some of the younger forwards joining the program.
The Lobos also have a handful of sophomores returning for the 2002 season. Both Andrew Weber and Danny Bills started every game for the Lobos last season and will play a major role in this years success. Weber, the 2000 Arizona Goalkeeper of the Year, recorded five shutouts in 2001, including three in the post season. Bills, the 2000 Colorado Player of the Year and high school all-American, emerged as one of the top defenders in the MPSF. Itzik Rapaport played every game in 2001, starting eight, and scored two goals and dished out one assist. Midfielder Jeremy Brown saw action in three games last season and will be fighting for more playing time this season. After participating in six games last season, defender Robert Bower has improved tremendously in the off-season and is ready to contribute.
Also joining the Lobos for the upcoming season are four talented transfers. Josef Bachmeier, a sophomore goalkeeper from Los Alamos, N. M., has transferred from Rhode Island. Stacy Lofton comes to UNM from the University of the Incarnate Word where he played for Fishbein in 2000. Lofton is a former New Mexico 5A Player-of-the-Year and will be a sophomore midfielder/defender for UNM in 2002. Ricky Francis was the New Mexico 3A Player-of-the-Year in 2000 and has transferred back to UNM from South Carolina. Francis redshirted for the NCAA participating Gamecocks in 2001, so he will still have four years of eligibility to give UNM in 2001. Rounding out the transfers is sophomore forward Eric Carlson. Carlson attended the University of Delaware on an academic scholarship last season and played for the Blue Hens soccer program. He will be eligible to play for the Lobos this fall and will have three years of eligibility remaining at UNM. While at Delaware, Carlson scored three goals in 18 games.
This years class of incoming freshman is arguably the best crop of newcomers in Lobo history. To begin with, a quartet of forwards will begin their college careers in 2002. Eric Bagwell redshirted last season for the Lobos and will compete for playing time at the forward position this season. Sam Suflita, is a first-team all-state player from Norman, Okla. Jonathan Weaver comes to UNM after winning two consecutive state championships at Broken Arrow HS in Broken Arrow, Okla. Also included in this group of freshmen forwards is Ben Ashwill. Ashwill was a first-team all-state performer for Sandia HS in Albuquerque which spent part of last season ranked No. 1 in the nation. UNM adds one freshman goalkeeper, Ben Turner, to the 2002 roster. Turner led Creekview HS in Carrollton, Tex. to a No. 18 national ranking in 2001.
Adding strength to the Lobo midfield are four freshmen who will push the upperclassmen for playing time in the fall. Lance Watson joins UNM after helping his Houston Texans club team to the USYSA national championships. Daniel Khamir brings great international experience from his Region III Olympic Development team. Ryan McVay spent last spring at the IMG Soccer Academy in Florida, preparing for his college career at UNM. Ben Gantenbein was a 1st team all-state performer for Arvada West HS in Golden, Colo.
Finishing off the Lobo freshman in 2002 are four defenders that will strengthen a defense that gave up just two goals in the last four games of 2001. Casey Thompson, from Longview, Texas, was a first-team all-district performer in 2001. Brandon Moss was New Mexicos 5A Player-of-the-Year and a member of the ODP Region IV team. Matt Chavez was New Mexicos 4A Player-of-the-Year while playing for Academy HS in Albuquerque. Matt Wootton rounds out the Lobo roster. He was a three-time all-district player for Colleyville Heritage HS in Colleyville, Texas.
If the Lobos are to return to the NCAA Championships for a second consecutive season they are going to have to fight through some solid competition along the way. The Lobos start the season with a four game road trip, opening on August 30 in Las Vegas, Nev. against Northern Illinois. That same weekend the Lobos also square off against Marshall, who is coming off an impressive 12-7-0 record from 2001. Next UNM will face Georgia Southern and Illinois-Chicago in Denver, Colo. UIC posted an 11-6-1 record in 2001 and placed third in the Horizon League.
New Mexicos home opener is in the TLC Plumbing and Utility Invitational against Cal Poly on September 13. UNM also faces Evansville on September 15, a team they defeated, 2-0, in 2001. The following weekend UNM hosts the Lobo Invitational. This tournament features matches against Georgia State on September 20 and Southwest Missouri State on September 22. UNMs remaining nonconference schedule includes road games at Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine, a match against Drury in Colorado Springs, Colo., and a home match against Colorado-Colorado Springs.
The Lobos begin Mountain Pacific Sports Federation action on October 20 against San Diego State at the UNM Soccer Complex. The conference slate continues with home games against Air Force and Denver and ends with road games at Sacramento State, San Jose State, and UNLV.
One fact about the 2002 schedule the Lobos are excited about is that Albuquerque will host this years MPSF Championships. The 2002 MPSF Championships will be held at the UNM Soccer Complex on November 14-18. The Lobos are hoping that strong play and the home crowd will help them make a return trip to the NCAA Tournament in 2002.