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Freshman midfielder Ben McKendry shouts after scoring UNM’s only goal versus Air Force on Sunday at the UNM Soccer Complex. The Lobos lost the conference championship game 5-4 in penalty kicks.

Shootout settles championship match, Lobos lose

assistantsports@dailylobo.com
@JROppenheim

Only one Mountain Pacific Sports Federation team beat the UNM men’s soccer team in 2012. That held true all the way through the conference tournament.

Air Force won the MPSF championship in a shootout Sunday, halting UNM’s run to its second straight title before leaving the conference. The Lobos will join Conference USA in 2013.

“It’s disappointing watching them,” UNM head coach Jeremy Fishbein said, referring to the Air Force postgame celebration. “We let the game slip away.”

Despite the loss, UNM (16-3-1) should still earn a berth in the NCAA College Cup with an at-large bid. The Lobos will learn their fate during today’s NCAA Selection Show at 3:30 p.m. 

The Falcons (10-8-4) receive the MPSF’s automatic bid to the post-season tournament.

Air Force was the only MPSF team to beat the Lobos in regular-season conference play: a 1-0 overtime decision in Albuquerque and a 2-1 margin at the Air Force academy near Colorado Springs. The Lobos posted 11 shutouts before Sunday’s loss.

Both teams played to a 1-1 tie through regulation and overtime in the tournament. Going first in the shootout, Air Force senior forward Zane Dydasco, senior defender Kevin Rossillon, senior midfielder Kevin Durr and senior defender Jake Jones made the team’s first four penalty shots.

UNM senior midfielder Nik Robson, senior forward Blake Smith and sophomore defender Matthew Gibbons converted their penalty shots, but Michael Calderon’s shot sailed high over the goal.

When Air Force’s Scott McGillivray nailed his final penalty kick, it gave the Falcons an insurmountable 5-3 advantage and the MPSF tournament title.

“The third time’s the charm for us,” Air Force head coach Doug Hill said. “The Lobos are a very good team. I thought they were on fire Friday night. It’s a team, I think, that can go far in the NCAAs.”

The Falcons needed some late-game heroics to make it 3-for-3. With 16 seconds left in regulation, Air Force cleared the ball out of its end toward Durr, who fired the shot from the top of the box and over UNM sophomore goalie Patrick Poblete.

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“With 16 seconds, you hope the ball drops to the right guy,” Hill said. “It did, and he’s a great shooter. As long as you keep it on frame, you have a chance.”

UNM took a 1-0 lead at the 29:31 mark, when freshman midfielder Ben McKendry scored from 4 yards out off an assist from junior forward Michael Kafari. McKendry recorded his third goal of the tournament and his seventh of the season.

The Lobos played aggressively throughout the game, taking 11 shots while Air Force took five. That aggressive play did not result in a second goal.

“A 1-0 lead is a dangerous lead,” Fishbein said. “We had things we focused on in the game, and when you have a lead against a team like that, you don’t give them second chances.”

Poblete, starting at net for senior Victor Rodriguez, made three saves and surrendered one goal. Poblete will play in the first round of the College Cup when Rodriguez serves a one-game suspension levied by the NCAA for punching a South Florida player after last season’s 6-5 shootout loss in the NCAA tournament.

Air Force senior goalie Matt Underwood made three saves with one goal allowed. 

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