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UNM’s Lance Rozeboom races towards the ball in a game against Loyola Marymount last Friday at University Stadium. The Lobos start conference play on Saturday when they take on UNLV.

Strong conference start means beating UNLV

The UNM men’s soccer team opens its conference schedule away at UNLV this weekend.

The Lobos are 6-0-2, and ranked No. 9 in the nation.

UNM was picked to finish in a tie for second place with the University of Denver, with Cal. State Bakersfield picked to win the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation (MPSF) this year.

Senior Lance Rozeboom said the team needs to make a statement to the rest of the teams in the conference when they play UNLV this Saturday on the road.

“It’s extremely important we start off with a win, with a tough game with UNLV,” he said. “They are always a tough opponent, and we are going in a tough environment and it’s very important to get off to a good start.”

Last year UNM beat UNLV three times, but two of the games were overtime wins, and the other UNM had to come back from a 2-0 deficit.

Head coach Jeremy Fishbein said he expects UNLV to give his team a good test again this year.

“We want it to be a challenge,” he said, “I think that’s how they look at it. They are going into this game 0-0-0 in conference, and UNLV has everything to play for,” he said.

UNM has failed to win the MPSF conference title for the past three years after being picked to finish first in last year’s preseason poll.

Rozeboom said that even though the team started off well, they have not won titles yet.

“We understand that we had a good non-conference but we haven’t accomplished anything yet,” he said. “We think we can improve in a lot of different areas, and if we do, the sky is the limit for this team.”

The MPSF conference is broken up into two divisions, the Mountain and Pacific.

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The Lobos, in the Mountain Division, will face each of the teams in the Mountain Division: Denver, UNLV and Air Force, twice, once at home and once on the road. Seattle, Cal. State Bakersfield, San Jose State and Sacramento State are all in the Pacific Division, and the Lobos will face each of these teams once.

Rozeboom said he feels his team can beat any team they face this year in MPSF play.

“You don’t want to be too arrogant saying that, but we go out on the field thinking that we are the best team and that we are the best prepared,” he said. “I think that’s what your mentality has to be if you want to be a great team.”

While the Lobos are the only team ranked in the top 25 in their conference, they will be facing some tough opponents.

Cal. State Bakersfield is undefeated in the season with a 4-0-3 record while Air Force has had the best start since 2001, with a 6-2-0 record.

Rozeboom said he expects every team regardless of their record to be good this year.

“We have a lot of respect for all the teams in our conference,” he said. “Every team is good this year. We have to come out prepared every single game, and we can’t take a team for granted.”

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