By no means is the UNM women’s soccer team hosting a powerhouse say, like, Texas Tech, who Lobos head coach Heather Dyche said “will be a top 25 team this year,” and who they lost to in the team’s season opener 2-0 on the road last Friday.
But for a UNM team that Dyche calls young and “lacks experience” playing at such a high level on a consistent basis, she did see some very fixable errors in her team’s philosophy. “I think this weekend (against Pacific) we have to raise our level of grittiness,” she said.
It’s visible fixes such as that, that can easily be tweaked too. For example, New Mexico’s season opener against Texas Tech. In the first half alone, the Lobos were overwhelmed by the Red Raiders’ offensive pressure. But in the second half, coach Dyche noticed a change in her team’s momentum. Her team picked up the pace, and played better than their first half of action this season. And it was that half that she saw a light in her team.
Still, however, UNM (0-1) was outshot 9-2 on goal and 17-4 overall in its season opener.
In Pacific, the Lobos face a much different challenge. Though not a powerhouse, Pacific is still a Division I college team. From last season, three of the top five goal scorers have returned, including the team’s leader in scores goals, sophomore Bryndís Thórólfsdóttir, who had four a season ago.
Of the returning players for the Tigers this season, three of them played in all 20 matches a season ago. They also have seven freshmen, making the team a mix of old and new, and something that makes it harder to prepare for, Dyche said. She also added that, although Pacific posted a negative record last season, she doesn’t think that they’ll be any worse than its record a season ago.
In two games this season, Pacific has yet to score. The Tigers’ lost their season opener to George Washington on Aug. 16 0-1, and then 1-0 to Navy on Aug. 19.
“We have really no idea what to expect from them,” Dyche said. She added: “I think they’ll be better than their record reflected last year.”
But during a non-conference game such as the one against Pacific, Dyche said that this early in the season is more about finding out about who her team is more so than the opponents themselves.
UNM returns three seniors in Jessica Nelson, Amelia Bierle and Jennifer Muñoz, all of whom started two games or more last season. Muñoz started in 21 of the team’s 22 matches, while Nelson started the least, appearing in in just two.
The Lobos have yet to score a goal in its lone match in the regular season against Texas Tech, however both Muñoz and Nelson scored in UNM’s exhibition match against CSU Pueblo on Aug. 14.
Of the Lobos’ two shots on goal against the Red Raiders, Muñoz attempted both.
The matchup between UNM and Pacific is set for 5 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 24.
Dyche added that one of the best things about playing at home is the fan base, saying that her “hope is that the entire soccer community comes out.”
Matthew Narvaiz is a sports beat reporter and senior writer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers football and also contributes content for other sports. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @matt_narvaiz.