The Fish Blog: The Dartmouth - UC Irvine Rollercoaster
Sept. 19, 2012
Sorry I'm a day or two late getting my "Lobo Faithful" email out to you. Last weekend's matches really took it out of me. The emotional roller coaster of a tense match or in this case, matches, puts an unbelievable beating on your mind and body. Seldom are there easy games in collegiate soccer. Anytime you face a team of 19-23 year-old young men who are fit, committed, focused and combative, you have to bring your "A" game. Coming off a season in which we achieved the #1 regular season ranking, and currently being ranked in the top 10, only adds fuel and incentive to our opponents fire.
As of last Sunday, we have played six of our 18 regular season matches. Five of our six opponents were NCAA Tournament teams in 2011 and all six have been ranked in the national "Top 30" during the first four weeks of this season (UCLA, SMU and Irvine all in the "Top 15" at some point this season). I have been very impressed with our team and the boys' ability to overcome the myriad obstacles they have faced. The manner in which they've embraced the challenge of having a "target on our chest" had been mature, inspiring and impressive. Playing the underdog role is easy, but being the favorite is difficult. Our team relishes the challenge; appreciating and honoring the respect and accolades we have received. To be the best, you have to be cohesive, driven, hard-working, talented and a bit lucky. Luck always rears its ugly head at some critical point in the season.
Here I am, in bed writing to you at 10:00 pm on a Tuesday night.... probably rambling... Monday was a recovery session in the morning and today was an off day for the team. Kids are in bed, my wife continues to think I am crazy, and I am ready to put last weekend to rest and focus my full attention on our upcoming matches and tomorrow mornings training session.
LOBOS VS DARTMOUTH: FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 14TH, 2012: 7:00 PM, ALBUQUERQUE, NM
Dartmouth is one of the strongest teams in the Ivy League with a quality coach, tremendous work ethic and a few special players. Smart kids from throughout the USA and foreign lands fill their roster. We were confident going into the match, but at the same time, cautious. It was a beautiful night for soccer with 4,000 supporters in the stands and the energy was tremendous. Great warm-up and we were firing on all cylinders. 1:30 into the match, two of our defenders went for the same aerial ball (textbook thing not to do.... one attacks ball and other gives cover) there was a collision with neither getting a piece of the ball. The ball bounces perfectly to the Dartmouth forward, who calmly slots it past our keeper. 1-0 Dartmouth just 90 seconds into the match. Unbelievable! To the boys credit, there was no reaction just back to business.
One minute later, tremendous solo effort from Michael Kafari on the flank, shot and rebound to Devon Sandoval who blasted the ball into the upper net. 1-1 with two goals in opening three minutes of the match. The early fireworks had just begun. Seven minutes later there was some uncharacteristic sloppy defending on our left flank, great finish, 2-1 Dartmouth.
Eight minutes later, great effort from James Rogers to Michael Calderon. 2-2 at the 18 minute mark of the match. My heart was pumping and who knows the effect on my internal organs. What a way to make a living. To the boys' credit, they never faltered and stayed the course. We really go a hold of the match and started to play some beautiful soccer. While we didn't find the net the remainder of the half, we felt very good going into halftime.
The second half was all Lobos. Our play was rewarded in the 60th minute when Ben McKendry punched in the rebound off a Blake Smith shot. 3-2 Lobos and we closed out the match with class and skill. Goalkeeper Vic Rodriguez didn't have to make a save the entire second half and we finished the match with a 20-8 advantage in shots and 7-1 advantage in corner kicks. Despite the dominating statistics, it was not an easy game to stomach. Link to the match recap.
LOBOS VS UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA IRVINE: SUNDAY, SEPTEMBER 16TH, 2012: 1:00 PM, ALBUQUERQUE, NM
Cal Irvine has had great success the past couple of years. Deep runs in the NCAA Tournament and top-level professional players have come from their ranks. This year's team was following suit with quality results and a high national ranking. We had a lot to prove to ourselves coming off Friday's inconsistent, but promising performance. Our goal was a complete game from minute one to minute 90. We were pretty close... three seconds away from our goal.
The sun was intense, the heat was turned up and 1,800 faithful in the stands for a challenging Sunday match. We came out strong and did everything right except put the ball in the net. The first half ended deadlocked 0-0, but we felt Irvine would fade as the game progressed. 15 minutes into the second stanza, tremendous combination play from Sandoval, Smith and Rogers with James Rogers putting the finishing touch on the collaborative effort with a great finish. 1-0 Lobos and cruising.
Irvine appeared dead and it seemed a matter of time before we would finish the match off with a second goal. As the seconds ticked off the clock, the goal never came. 15 seconds left in the match and Irvine awarded a direct kick 30 yards from our goal. Service into our box, clearance by our keeper and with 3 seconds on the clock, a one-time finish from outside the box to knot the score at 1-1. Unbelievable. Never has this happened to a team I've coached. Irvine didn't have a shot on our goal the entire second half.
Sudden death overtime, two periods of ten minutes. The boys were determined to not let this one slip away. First overtime... no reward.
As the seconds ticked down, Irvine went into a defensive shell. With a minute left on the clock, a barrage of shots on the Irvine goal earned us a corner from the left side. In-swinging corner from McKendry, class header from Carson Baldinger... 2-1 Lobos in OT.
Another dominating performance but a nail biter. 18-11 advantage in shots and 10-2 advantage in corners with Vic not challenged to make a save the second half or OT. Big win for the boys and a great display of confidence and perseverance. As for me, what a weekend! Link to match re-cap.
We need your support and your membership in our booster club, the Golden Goal Club. We strive to be the best collegiate men's soccer program in the country. 100% of membership dollars go directly to Lobo Men's Soccer. We needed to raise over $40,000 to cover our operating expenses. Here is the link to our Golden Goal Club Brochure. We need you as a member!
We are back at home this weekend for two more big ones! Fairfield University from Connecticut on Friday night at 7:00 pm and Northern Illinois Sunday at 1:00 pm. Both were NCAA Tournament participants in 2011. Our goal and challenge is to put away our chances and keep a clean sheet. I feel good about this team and our best soccer is still ahead of us.
The University of New Mexico Soccer Team aspires to achieve EXCELLENCE every time we step onto the playing field.
Thanks for all your support and GO LOBOS!