The University of New Mexico women's soccer team looked like a well-oiled machine in its exhibition opener, pummeling the Colorado State University-Pueblo Thunderwolves in a lopsided shutout win.
New Mexico outshot CSU-Pueblo 29-2 in the match, but held just a one-goal lead, after the first of three 30-minute periods, thanks to a late score by junior midfielder Jessie Hix in the waning seconds.
The Lobos exploded in the second and third periods though, blasting six shots past the goal keeper en route to a 7-0 exhibition victory.
UNM senior Jessica Nelson scored on a free kick and Hix found the back of the net for her second goal of the match to make it 3-0 in the 44th minute. Sophomore Madi Hirschman collected back-to-back goals — cleaning up a putback attempt and scoring again just moments later — to extend the advantage to 5-0 through two periods of play.
Hirschman also set up teammate Jennifer Muñoz, who also scored consecutive goals in the contest, dropping off a pass to Muñoz in the 63th minute as the senior fired one into the back of the net. Muñoz notched the final goal of the match less than four minutes later to close out a dominating 7-0 Lobo performance.
UNM head coach Heather Dyche, who is entering her fourth season at the helm for the Lobos, said she was really pleased with the result — but also acknowledged the team still has a lot of work to do.
"Sometimes those games can be really tricky because often times a team overlooks the exhibition match and starts to think about the games coming up," she said. "I thought our team took it seriously and there were some bright spots."
Dyche provided a succinct, "I don't know," when asked what her general outlook was for the team regarding the upcoming season. The head coach said the vast majority of the team is unproven, but said she was optimistic about the potential of her players.
Senior leadership will rest on the shoulders of just three women — Nelson, Muñoz and Amelia Bierle. Dyche said she thinks the younger players look up to the seniors and want to play really hard for them.
"The three of them are very different, but in a really unique way," she said. "They have this cool leadership style — they are very giving to the team."
The team is very young — boasting just six upperclassmen. But Dyche said the roster is "highly talented" and the successes will depend on how quickly all the pieces band together.
New Mexico will be faced with a tough test right away in the season opener — squaring off against Texas Tech on the road. Dyche said the Red Raiders, who have won the last two regular season meetings against the Lobos, had their way with UNM in the spring.
"I think our team knows that we have our hands full this weekend," Dyche said. "They are up for the challenge, but I think they also know that its going to be quite a different level of competition and they are going to have to step up.
She said the goal will be for the players to focus on process, rather than results in the early going of the season. The early tests could result in the squad being primed for conference play once it comes around.
Dyche said if the team wants to make it to the NCAA Tournament, then it will likely have to win the Mountain West since the conference has often been a one-bid league.
New Mexico and Texas Tech will take the pitch in the Lobo season opener on Aug. 17 at 7:15 p.m. The Lobos will return to Albuquerque for its home opener on Friday, Aug. 24 to host Pacific.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and football and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.