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MWC’s top goalie leads Lobos

sports@dailylobo.com

Throughout her Lobo career, senior goalie Kelli Cornell has helped bring the women’s soccer team into the spotlight.

She stands 5 feet 10 inches and has been named the best goalie in the MWC for two years running.

Cornell was one of the primary reasons for the Lobos first two NCAA tournament appearances and regular season MWC championships in team history. She said she hopes to make this year no different.

“I think that we just want to build off what we accomplished last year,” Cornell said. “Continue to work on the things we learned and go further into the NCAA tournament.”

The preseason MWC coaches poll agrees with Cornell and has the Lobos winning the conference for a third straight year.

In the combined 2006-08 seasons, the Lobos went 24-17-15. During the three years that Cornell has been the Lobo’s goalie, UNM’s record is 37-13-12.

Cornell said she’s happy to have been a part of a culture change for Lobo women’s soccer.

“I think it’s great; it’s been a work in progress since my freshman year,” she said. “So I just think we’ve built off that, and we work harder than any team that I know.”

Head coach Kit Vela said Cornell has been one of the key pieces to the team throughout the years.

“Having a good goalkeeper back there that you trust and believe in is very important,” Vela said.

Cornell said the defining moment in her career at UNM was defeating former conference rival BYU two years ago in double overtime.

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“That’s when we clinched our first conference championship,” she said. “So that was awesome, and we’ve moved from there.”

Before the start of the season, Cornell had an 82 career-save percentage, 33 shutouts in 62 games, averaged less than one goal allowed per game in her career and never missed a start.

Junior Liz Nare said statistics don’t do justice to the value her teammates place on Cornell.

“She means so much to us both on and off the field. She’s a great leader and an excellent goalkeeper,” Nare said. “As a defender, I can rely on her. I know that if I somehow manage to mess up, she has my back.”

Cornell is one of three team captains, and she said she leads by communicating with her teammates and setting a good example both on and off the field.

A native of San Clemente, Calif., Cornell said she chose UNM for a myriad of reasons, specifically assistant coach Jorge Vela and the crowd support that ranked fourth nationally in attendance in 2011.

“I came to UNM because the coaching staff,” she said. “Jorge is one of the best goal trainers in the country, so I came for him to help improve my game, and the facilities are some of the best in the country and the community support. We have a great turnout.”

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