The New Mexico Men’s Soccer Team rebounded from a slow start to come back and beat the UC Irvine Anteaters in the final game of the Grange and Ashwill Invitational on Sunday night by a score of 2-1.
The Lobos started out slowly in the first half, and the Anteaters were able to capitalize on it, with a goal in the 11th minute. This was the result of some chaos in the box, as Devin Boyce blocked a shot from Mario Ortiz — but the rebound was put into the net off of a deflection by Jose Ortiz to give UCI the lead.
The goal seemed to wake up the Lobos, and head coach Jeremy Fishbein made some adjustments to his team as a result.
“I was just bringing some energy, I think Friday probably took a little more out of us than I realized, just played a lot of games,” Fishbein said. “We’ve asked a lot out of the guys, mentally and physically, and I couldn’t be prouder of them today. They got it together and had some wonderful performances. The back four was quality, Aaron Herrera, great game. Just really happy for our guys, really deserving of this win. We’re in a good spot right now entering conference USA play.”
From there, the Lobos were the ones in control of the match, and they applied consistent pressure on the Irvine goal. The Lobos finally broke through in the 39th minute when Antoine Vial grabbed his own rebound and fired it into the net from five feet out to tie the game at 1. After the game, Vial spoke about how the team showed their strength.
“We obviously had a slow start, but we were very confident and we showed that we’re very strong mentally as a team and we responded well,” Vial said. “We scored the first one, and the second one and we stayed very strong in the final minutes. It’s a very good response from the team, and we’re confident.”
The second half was more of the same for the Lobos, who continued to put pressure on the Anteaters, as they searched for their second goal. In the 52nd minute, the Lobos found their breakthrough. Devin Boyce delivered a corner kick into the box, and Aaron Scott got the ball to Herrera, who shot from the right and put the ball into the net, in what turned out to be the game-winning goal.
The excitement wasn’t over though.
In the 65th minute, both coaches were shown red cards and ejected from the game. The incident followed the UC Irvine bench disagreeing with a yellow card shown to Ivan Canales. After the incident, the two coaches walked off the field together and then to the bleachers to watch the rest of the match.
UNM had a great opportunity to add a third goal, as they were awarded a penalty kick following Aaron Herrera being taken down in the box. Sam Gleadle stepped up to take the kick and put it right into the arms of the goalkeeper. The Anteaters put some pressure on the Lobos in the final ten minutes, and Victor Falck forced an excellent save from Jason Beaulieu, but UCI never got closer than that; and the Lobos were able to run out the clock on the victory.
Four Lobos made the All-Tournament Team, and Aaron Herrera and Jason Beaulieu were named tournament and defensive MVP. The Lobos next take the field on Saturday, Sept. 16 against Kentucky at the UNM Soccer Complex.
Cameron Goeldner is a freelance sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.