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Senior Jael Fanning puts the MWC tournament champion hat on senior Zaneta Wyne Sunday. The Lobos beat the University of Wyoming Cowgirls 2-0 to receive an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

First-and last-minute goals lead to NCAA berth

A second straight NCAA tournament berth is on tap for the UNM women’s soccer team.

After winning the MWC regular season title last weekend, the Lobos beat Wyoming 2-0 on Sunday thanks to goals in the first and last minutes of the game.

The win gives the Lobos their first-ever MWC tournament title, granting the team an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament.

Junior midfielder Natalie Jenks scored just 19 seconds into to the match with a cross pass from senior midfielder Jael Fanning.

The goal helped the Lobos maintain an edge over Wyoming for the rest of the game and boosted the team’s morale, Jenks said.

“It got us so pumped,” she said. “We were pumped from the beginning of the game, but having that goal gave us an advantage and led us throughout the rest of the game.”

The Cowgirls searched in vain for a tying goal.

“I think, for one, they were just hitting and hoping because they didn’t want to make a mistake,” head coach Kit Vela said. “They were down, and you have to take a risk at that point.”

With one minute left and the title still in doubt, Wyoming had one last opportunity to tie after a foul on UNM at half-field.

The Wyoming goalkeeper went into the box for the free kick and left the goal unguarded. The free kick was blocked and fell to UNM’s senior forward Jennifer Williams, who scored into the open net with six seconds left in the game.

It was her 14th goal of the season, and after the game she was named the MWC tournament MVP.

“They weren’t giving up with 30 seconds left, and had a free kick about midfield,” Williams said. “I think once they put the keeper in, it was just, ‘okay, this is it, this could be the last play of the game.’”

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This is the second-straight season that the Lobos head to NCAA tournament. Vela feels more confident in her team going into the tournament this year compared to last year.

“We’ll be playing off of experience just like we played the conference and the conference championship this year off of experience,” Vela said. “We’re going into the NCAA a little wiser and a little bit more confident than we did last year just by being there before.”

Williams thinks that all the hard work and preparation paid off in the end, with a little extra motivation by the preseason picks.

“We work hard during the offseason, preseason and the season,” Williams said. “We were underestimated because we were picked to finish second this year, and we ended up winning the tournament and the conference all in one year. It’s a great feeling; this team deserves it,”

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