It was only last year that ex-UNLV midfielder Jordan Magnin, six seconds from the final whistle, fired a 30-yard shot into the goal to devastate the Lobos 2-1. But last Friday, the Lobos struck back, beating the Rebels by the same score.
UNM head coach Heather Dyche, in the week leading up to the game, didn’t let her team forget about Magnin’s goal.
“We played that (video) before the game and just said, ‘You cannot turn off, ever,’ and I didn’t think they did,” Dyche said. “I was never worried about our energy, and that was the message tonight — if you do things right, good things will happen.”
UNLV was heading into the game with eight wins and only one loss. The Rebels had won the Mountain West Conference the previous year and had already scored 18 goals this season.
UNM and UNLV battled hard in the first half, both sharing about the same amount of possession. Both sides created chances and were looking to go forward, but UNLV came the closest to breaking the deadlock.
In the 28th minute, Rebel sophomore forward Michaela Morris, with the Lobo defense out of position, hit the crossbar from the right side of the penalty area.
The Lobos had several chances throughout the first half, but failed to create any major goal-scoring opportunities. However, it was apparent that long throw-ins from UNM junior Jessica Nelson and senior Alexa Cabrales were uncomfortable for the UNLV defense.
And in the 53rd minute, it was another set piece that would unlock the UNLV defense.
Senior forward Claire Lynch’s free kick from the left was cleared by the Rebels, but only as far as Lobo sophomore midfielder Jessie Hix, who scuffed a shot inside the box straight to Nelson, who then collected the ball and rifled it into the top right corner of the goal.
“I don’t usually get the chance to score as much, because I’m the one serving the ball,” Nelson said. “We talk a lot about being brave in the box when we get the opportunities and we knew we weren’t going to get too many tonight.”
The Lobos’ lead was short-lived. UNLV senior Sophie Cortes sped down the UNM right side, beating several players and then slid the ball inside the UNM penalty area to forward Caitlyn Kreutz, who blasted the ball into the roof of the net, tying the game 1-1.
It seemed after the equalizing goal that UNLV might snatch the momentum and potentially the lead, but UNM battled on and even took control of the game.
UNM’s high energy and use of the width of the field caused problems for UNLV, especially in the later stages, but in the 76th minute, it was Lynch’s patience and individual skill that won the game.
Lynch, who had little looks during most of the contest, received a driven ball at the top of the box from junior midfielder Jennifer Muñoz and after collecting the ball, beat her and tapped it beyond the UNLV goalkeeper, who came out to try to smother the ball.
“Patience is always a huge thing, regardless of whoever we’re playing,” Lynch said. “You get a lot of shots or you don’t get a lot of shots, but either way, when the time comes you have to be ready.”
The Lobos picked up another win against Nevada at home on Sunday. The team will next face Boise State in Boise, Idaho on Friday, Sept. 29.
Matthieu Cartron is a sports beat reporter for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers women’s soccer and men’s tennis. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @cartron_matt.