New Mexico’s 2-1 win against Fresno State last week shot the Lobos into first place in the Mountain West Conference standings, but after a 1-0 loss to Air Force on Friday night, the Lobos fell to fourth in the standings.
The top six teams in the conference standings, at the end of the conference regular season, advance to compete in the conference tournament.
The Lobos (9-6, 4-3 MW) outshot the Falcons (7-4-3, 4-0-3 MW) by a margin of 17 to 12, with both sides creating several close chances. UNM has only scored twice in its last three games — a big reason the team has lost its last two.
University of New Mexico head coach Heather Dyche gave credit to the Falcons for their strong performance but bemoaned her side’s missed opportunities.
“Air Force played really well tonight, and both teams created a lot of great chances," Dyche said in a release. “We need to capitalize on ours better heading into Sunday.”
The encounter remained scoreless for most of the game, but in the 70th minute Air Force punished UNM on a counter-attack.
Charging down the middle of the UNM defensive third and into the penalty area, senior midfielder Kaylee Shalongo passed the ball across UNM sophomore goalkeeper Emily Johnson and found sophomore defender Erin Speer, who slotted the ball into the left corner of the goal.
The Lobos had what appeared to be their best chance to equalize in the 87th minute. Senior forward Claire Lynch slotted a through ball for junior defender Jessica Nelson, whose one-time shot in the penalty area toward the near post went wide of the mark.
The Falcons are now undefeated in their last three games, and have kept six clean sheets this season.
“It was another amazing effort by our team,” Air Force head coach Larry Friend said in a release. “Coach Dyche of New Mexico has a phenomenal team. The game could have gone either way. That’s the way it is in this conference this year. I’m very proud of our effort tonight, all across the board.”
The Lobos will hope to continue their fight for conference tournament qualification headed into the remaining conference games. The Lobos will stay in Colorado to take on Colorado College on Sunday.
UNM lost to the Tigers 1-0 in the 2016 campaign and have struggled away from home this season, winning two and losing four.
Both the Lobos and the Tigers have dynamic attacks — the Tigers have had ten different goal scorers this season, and the Lobos nine. A third of the Lobos’ goals this season have come from Lynch, who has six to her name.
The Tigers are 10th in the table, but with four conference games left to play, they could still qualify for the conference tournament. The Tigers are only three points behind sixth-place San Diego State, and only four points behind UNM.
Kickoff between UNM and Colorado College is on Sunday, Oct. 15, at noon at Stewart Field in Colorado Springs, Colorado.
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.