Stevens: Fishbein's Lobos Get First-Round Bye in NCAA Playoffs
Nov. 12, 2012
New Mexico Lobos Men's Soccer - 2012 NCAA College Cup
Sunday: 7 p.m. (MT) - UNM Soccer Complex - Vs. winner of Lafayette/Virginia
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
The New Mexico Lobos men's soccer team, a Top Ten program for most of the season, was handed a first-round bye, a second-round home game and the No. 13 seed in the NCAA College Cup.
"We're excited and we're hungry," said Lobo Blake Smith.
However - just like last year - if there are no upsets early on the New Mexico corner of the NCAA bracket, the Lobos will play their second NCAA game on the road.
The Lobos will play at 7 p.m. (MT) Sunday at the UNM Lobo Soccer Complex against the winner of Thursday's first-round game between Lafayette and Virginia. If the favored Lobos win their home game and No. 4 Connecticut holds serve at home, the Lobos would travel East to battle the Huskies.
The Lobos were the nation's only undefeated team in 2011 at 17-0-3 and were handed a No. 10 seed. The No. 13 seed probably didn't come as a shock to the 16-3-1 Lobos who lost twice to Air Force during Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play and lost a shootout to the Falcons Sunday in the MPSF title game played in Albuquerque.
"Our main thing was getting that bye and wanting to play somebody who hadn't been to this field, hadn't ever experienced this environment," said Fishbein.
"We got both of those things. That's a tough trip (for Lafayette or Virginia) coming out here."
Air Force and Tulsa were the only teams to defeat UNM in 2012. Air Force, which grabbed the MPSF automatic bid, opens Thursday at Washington. Tulsa also made the NCAA bracket as a No. 11 seed.
The Lobos were one of 26 teams to receive an at-large bid as 22 teams earned automatic berths. The top 16 teams receive first-round byes and home-field advantage. The top eight teams have the chance to host two home games.
The Lobos went into the Air Force game with a No. 9 ranking, but failed to take advantage of their home pitch in losing the shootout to the defensive-minded Falcons. Air Force tied the game with 16 seconds to play in regulation.
The game officially falls into the books as a tie, but that tie probably wasn't a factor in UNM being placed on the road for a third-round game.
The Lobos' 12-team pod on the NCAA bracket also includes No. 5 Akron and No. 12 Creighton. The Lobos' path to the 2012 title game conceivably could go through No. 4 UConn, No. 5 Akron and No. 1 Notre Dame.
Notre Dame got the No. 1 seed in the 48-team field, Maryland was No. 2 and Georgetown was No. 3. If there are no upsets in Notre Dame's 12-team section, the Irish would have to get past No. 9 seed North Carolina, the defending NCAA champs, in order to reach soccer's Final Four.
Virginia is a capable opponent and took No. 3 ranked North Carolina into a penalty-kick shootout this past Friday before losing to the Tar Heels in the ACC semifinals. The teams played to a scoreless draw through 110 minutes before UNC exited victorious 4-3 in the shootout.
The Lobos lost their shootout to Air Force in the MPSF title game 5-3.
The Cavaliers take a six-game unbeaten streak into postseason play. "It's a disappointing way to exit any postseason, but it is what it is and I know we will be getting ourselves ready for the NCAA tournament now," Virginia head coach George Gelnovatch said after the loss to North Carolina.
"Our schedule is the toughest in the country. It didn't quite kill us, but it almost did a couple of times." Virgina played UNC in a program-record fifth consecutive overtime game.
While Virginia and New Mexico enter postseason play with at-large berths, Lafayette reached the bracket by winning the Patriot League Championship. The Leopards should be considered underdogs to Virginia.
The Cavaliers obviously have the all-important home-field edge Thursday. Virginia also is on the royal court of Division I soccer with six NCAA titles: 1989, 1991, 1992, 1993, 1994 and 2009.
UV is making its 32nd-consecutive appearance in the NCAA tournament field. That's the longest current streak in Division I soccer. UV has a 52-27-4 NCAA tournament mark.
The Cavaliers are unbeaten in their last six matches, including four straight contests away from home.
The Cavaliers reached the semifinals of the ACC tournament, moving past Wake Forest in a penalty-kick shootout before being eliminated by North Carolina in a shootout.
All-ACC honoree Will Bates leads Virginia with 11 goals and 23 points; he ranks seventh all-time in goals at Virginia.
UV's lineup regularly features a starting unit with six freshmen and nine underclassmen. The young Cavaliers didn't have a glossy record in 2012, but went 4-1-3 in their final eight games and a tough schedule helped them finish No. 15 in the RPI.
Lafayette (9-7-4) is making its first appearance in the NCAA tournament since 2005. Lafayette is riding a seven-match unbeaten streak entering NCAA play. The second-seeded Leopards upset top-seeded American, 2-0, Sunday to claim the Patriot League's automatic berth.
Alec Golini leads the Leopards with seven goals and 15 points in 2012.
Connecticut won the Big East regular-season title and carries a 15-3-1 mark into the postseason. The Huskies lost to Notre Dame in the Big East tourney title. The Big East is sending eight teams into NCAA play. UConn won NCAA titles in 1981 and 2000.