Call it a calm before the storm.
The UNM men’s soccer team finishes up their third and final exhibition game on the road at the University of Denver on Saturday.
The Lobos played two previous preseason affairs with a 3-1 win at home against Grand Canyon University and a 2-0 loss against Air Force on Thursday night.
What may be the most daunting task for head coach Jeremy Fishbein is to decide who will replace a team that lost in the Sweet 16 just one season ago.
“I mean, ‘replace’ is a funny term,” Fishbein said. “But I do anticipate them being very good again because we have great leadership and we have a strong returning group. The summer was a very focused one because we had some goals in mind.”
While the objective in mind is to win every game, even if it is an exhibition game, it won’t be easy for UNM with its schedule.
Senior midfielder Michael Kafari said it doesn’t matter what school they play, whether it be preseason, in the regular season or the postseason, they all present a difficult task.
“All the teams will challenge us and there is no doubt about that,” he said. “Every team is going to be a different challenge and we’re going to have to find the right motivation and find the right formula because every team is going to be different.”
As the Lobos moved into a new conference, Conference USA, they faced an old foe — Air Force — from their old league: the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation.
While Thursday’s preseason games are on the road, they defeated both the Pioneers (1-0) and the Falcons (1-0) away from the UNM Soccer Complex last season.
But Denver and Air Force both knocked off the Lobos back-to-back in Albuquerque last season, and handed them two of the only three UNM losses at home.
“It’s going to be like the MPSF,” Kafari said. “You had Air Force one weekend, and then next weekend you had Bakersfield, who liked to keep the ball. But I’m just ready to get going.”
But the key for Fishbein and the coaching staff isn’t to make assumptions during the offseason and the preseason season.
However, Fishbein favors the teams they have on the entire schedule.
“It’s awesome,” Fishbein said. “It’s who you want to play and I don’t think you could ask for more.”
Senior midfielder Michael Calderon agrees with his head coach.
“Well, we’re always excited to play,” Calderon said. “We’ve worked really hard during the spring, but we don’t play many games, of course. We want to prove all the hard work we just did (in the offseason) is for a reason and that means we have to win games.”
Senior defender Kyle Venter, who enters his fifth season in the program, said he enjoys the challenge of the 2013 Lobo schedule.
“That’s what you look for to prepare us for the postseason and the NCAA tournament,” Venter said.