Stevens: Vela's Lobos Roll Wyoming 2-0 & Roll Into NCAA Postseason
Nov. 6, 2011
New Mexico Lobos Women's Soccer - 2011 Mountain West Champions
Sunday: Lobos 2, Wyoming 0
By Richard Stevens - Senior Writer/GoLobos.com
There were spoils for the victors everywhere. There were Mountain West championship T-shirts, caps, a big trophy and the obligatory photo shoot.
There were hugs and tears and love flowing between a special Lobo team that made certain there were no doubts as to which team rules the Mountain West in 2011.
"These seniors really deserve this," said Lobo coach Kit Vela.
What the Lobos deserved and earned really came throughout the long Mountain West season but it culminated Sunday at the Lobo Soccer Complex. The Lobos made it a clean sweep by adding the MW tournament crown to their MW regular-season crown.
Maybe this game was over before it started because it is so difficult to beat Vela's Lobos on their own pitch. For sure, it was over 19 seconds into the match because you simply don't give the defensive-minded Lobos a 1-0 lead with so much on the line.
The Lobos shocked Wyoming and probably most of the 714 in attendance when Natalie Jenks headed a cross from Jael Fanning into the Cowgirls' net 19 seconds into the match. The Lobos got an open-net goal from senior Jennifer Williams at the 89:54 mark - six seconds to play - when Wyoming pushed up looking for a miracle finish.
What the finish handed the Lobos besides a MW title was a relaxing Monday afternoon in front of the TV when the NCAA Soccer Selection Committee announces its' 2011 field.
Oh yeah, the Lobos also got the Mountain West's automatic bid. "I might just stay home," joked Vela, referring to the no-doubt status the Lobos earned with the shutout over Wyoming.
Last year, UNM won the Mountain West's regular-season title, but the automatic bid went to BYU, the 2010 tourney champs. The Lobos had to sit in front of the TV and hope that they had done enough to earn at-large status.
UNM's resume in 2011 is pretty impressive, but there will be no worries come Monday.
"The weight is off our shoulders," said Lobo goalie, Kelli Cornell. "Last year our name came up on the last screen, so it was a little nerve-wracking. "
Said Jenks, who ended with three shots, two on goal, vs. Wyoming: "It's a lot less suspenseful this way. We were in the last call last year, but this year we are going for sure. Now, it's just a question of where."
The NCAA bracket actually was cruel to the Lobos in 2010. It was their first-ever NCAA bid and they had to go to Notre Dame, traditionally one of the tougher pitches in women's soccer. Notre Dame beat the Lobos and upset Stanford for the 2010 national title.
"We're more prepared this time," said Vela. "We played a season that not only prepared us for the Mountain West but for other things that we planned to come our way."
Said Jenks: "Having the experience of going to the NCAA last year will help us. We know what to expect and we've prepared for it."
Jenks' goal was a combination of a Lobo being aggressive and two Cowgirls being, well, caught off guard.
UNM took the opening kick and worked the ball down its right attack zone. Jael Fanning, who led the Mountain in assists, lofted a floating cross that really didn't look like it would be much trouble.
But Wyoming's back defender and Cowgirl keeper Courtney Merkle had a communication breakdown. The defender, Jenny Johnson, glanced back at Merkle, who Jenks said had called for the ball. But Merkle didn't come out and Johnson let the ball come down.
And Jenks pounced.
"The keeper called for it, but she didn't come out," said Jenks. "You could see there was confusion between the defender and the keeper, so I went hard at the ball and got a nice, easy tip off my head."
Said Cornell: "That goal took a lot of pressure off our defense. This win was super. This was our goal from the beginning of the season, but we worked hard from the end of last year with the goal of winning conference (regular season) and the tournament."
The Lobos finish the Mountain West portion of the season with a 12-4-4 mark. Wyoming goes back to Laramie at 12-6-4, hoping that the NÇAA calls out an at-large MW team and it's Wyoming and not San Diego State.
UNM ended the game with 15 shots and 10 shots on goal. Wyoming had nine shots and five shots on goal.
"To see it come together like this is such an amazing feeling," said Jenks. "It couldn't get any better."
Well, it might get a little better on Monday. There will be a field of the best collegiate teams in the nation flashing up on TV. The Lobos name will be among them.