The University of New Mexico women's soccer team has a lot of new faces on the squad. Several of them have made significant contributions already, but the Mountain West took notice of one young Lobo when doling out selections to honor the conference's top players.
UNM freshman forward Alesia Garcia was named the Mountain West Offensive Player of the Week for matches played through Aug. 26, a release said.
Garcia played a big role in helping New Mexico bounce back after losing its season opener to notch a pair of home wins over the weekend. She netted a score in both games as she and her teammates punished opposing goalkeepers for a combined nine goals.
She said it was a great start at home for the team, but acknowledged she and her teammates will need to keep things going and get better with each game.
Head coach Heather Dyche said she knew freshman would have to come in and make an impact to help fill the void that was left behind after the team lost eight starters from last year's squad. While much of the team is untested, Dyche seemed eager with the potential a wide-eyed freshman like Garcia posses.
"I really think that she could be one of the leading goal scorers to ever leave this university," Dyche said after Friday's win over Pacific. "(Garcia) is a goal scorer...that's what she wants to do."
Garcia's first goal as a Lobo came in the 72nd minute against Pacific, uncorking an open shot that was well outside the box and curling it over the goalkeeper to put her team up 3-0 at the time — en route to a 4-2 victory.
"As soon as Jenna (Killman) flicked it from Malia (Vanisi's) punt, I saw my opening. The defender's gates were open and I just took my chance to sprint down as see the ball," Garcia said. "When I looked up, the goalie was out of place so I tried to just fit it and I saw it go right over her and I got really excited."
She also opened up the scoring in Sunday's 5-0 shutout win over Idaho State — finishing a breakaway opportunity in the 21st minute with a goal off a well-placed pass from teammate Amelia Bierle.
Garcia said she was not aware there was a system in place that awarded things like "player of the week" and was surprised to hear about it when the news of her selection started to spread.
"I was actually in treatment, getting ice, and I saw one of my teammates comment on Instagram," she said. "As soon as she commented, Heather (Dyche) texted me and then all the congratulations started coming in."
She seemed excited to learn that a fellow Lobo soccer player also received recognition for his performance on the pitch. Matt Puig, a member of the New Mexico men's soccer team, was tabbed as the Conference USA Offensive Player of the Week.
Garcia said it was "really cool" to share that distinction with another Lobo, expressing that it shows what they are doing as a program and as a community.
The freshman forward said it was a great start at home for the team and enjoyed playing in front of Lobo fans, but acknowledge she and her teammates still have a lot of work to do.
She said the goal is try to improve with each passing game, learning from mistakes in order to be a better player and a better team. The next test for the Lobos will come on the road as the team faces UC Davis on Friday, Aug. 31 and San Francisco on Sunday, Sept. 2.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at email@example.com or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.