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Sunday, December 21, 2014

Men's soccer team sticks together for strong season start

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By Sergio Jiménez / New Mexico Daily Lobo

New Mexico men’s soccer head coach Jeremy Fishbein speaks about the upcoming season at the Colleen J. Maloof Administration Building on Friday. The men’s soccer team opens up its season with an exhibition game against Fort Lewis at the UNM Soccer Complex at 7 p.m tonight.

Although the UNM men’s soccer team had a successful season last year, the question at the beginning of every season is always the same: What will this season be like?

Last year the Lobos won the Conference USA regular-season title in its first season in the league, and made it all the way to the Final Four in the NCAA Tournament.

It was a season the team could be proud of, but success did not come easy; senior forward James Rogers said the team didn’t know what to expect at first because they had lost many good players.

There was struggle at various points during the season, but the team stuck together and kept going, he said. Last year’s low point totals helped as learning experiences that can be used as advantages this year.

“I think last year gave us more confidence (in) how to deal with tough schedules because we played some great teams on the road,” Rogers said. “It was a good experience and we can build from that and apply it to this season.”

This year the team looks to re-create last season’s success — or even surpass it.

To accomplish that, head coach Jeremy Fishbein said all 27 members of the roster must come together as a team and be good not only during big games, but on a daily basis.

“Our goal isn’t so much national championships. Our goal is based on being good each and every game,” he said. ”You have to be good right now; you have to be good today. You have to be good on your exhibitions and you have to take care of your business.”

Fishbein said the key to a successful game starts with a strong defense that plays to shut out the opponent. He also said it is important for the team to take chances and always take advantage of the opportunities that present themselves during every game.

Captain Mathew Gibbons, a senior defender, agrees with Fishbein. Gibbons said it is the little things that can make a team successful.

“Hard work, working for each other, being unified — things like that. It takes a lot of things, it’s not one big thing. It’s not one big talented player,” he said.

This season the Lobos have a lot to gain, but also a lot to lose because the success of last season raised expectations. The Conference USA league already announced the Lobos as preseason favorites to win the conference, while the NSCAA ranked the Lobos fifth in the nation.

However, the team decided a long time ago that feeling pressure can be an advantage, Gibbons said.

“As a team, it’s more of a confidence that you feel. If it’s pressure it means people expect things from you, so I take that as a confidence,” Gibbons said. “We just go out there and train and play when it’s game time.”

Isabel Gonzalez is a freelance reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be contacted at sports@dailylobo.com or on Twitter @cisabelg.

Men’s soccer vs. Fort Lewis

Today

7 p.m.

UNM Soccer Complex