It’s nothing new to Kit Vela.
The head women’s soccer coach for UNM, who is in her 13th year as the face of the program, is set to tackle another season with a youthful roster after four consecutive seasons of double-digit wins.
Vela said she will have to fill her lineup with a lot of first-time players.
“We have 35 roster players; 25 of them are underclassmen,” Vela said. “So we’re very young.”
While the team might be inexperienced, it does have the talent that can possibly lead to another appearance in the Mountain West Conference championship game.
The Lobos fell short in 2012, losing to San Diego State in the MWC final 2-0.
The loss still resonates in the minds of the older players, including senior defender Liz Nare. But she said it hasn’t subdued her excitement for her final year at UNM.
Nare said the youth movement doesn’t bother her, and that it could be a positive theme for the season.
“It’s a young team, but it’s exciting,” Nare said. “This group is unreal: While they’re young, they’re very hungry, very athletic and they will get up and down that field … We’re the closest from top to bottom that I’ve ever gotten to experience. I’m so excited, I love every single girl (on the team) on and off the field.”
While the young team will certainly challenge veteran players like Nare and their coach Vela, this season’s schedule for the Lobos looks to offer them an advantage.
While UNM spent much of its time on the road last season, the Lobos have landed a slew of home games at the UNM Soccer Complex during 2013.
The Lobos open up with a date with Texas Tech in Albuquerque on Friday.
Of the 20 regular season games for UNM, half are at home, including the MWC conference tournament, which will be at the UNM Soccer Complex from Nov. 4-9.
Nare said she is thankful for the generous schedule the Lobos have been given.
“Last year was just rough because we were traveling almost every weekend,” Nare said. “It wears on you a little bit, but playing here, and the whole atmosphere, it’s just amazing.
“Especially with finishing off my last season, I’m so stoked to be playing at home,” she said.
Prior to the cluster of home games, however, the Lobos will have to hit the road.
After hosting Texas Tech, the Lobos will head south to face NMSU and then to the East Coast for a tournament in North Carolina against UNC and Duke.
Vela said she is interested to see where this team goes with the schedule that plays in the Lobos’ favor.
“We’re very talented and we’re deeper everywhere than we’ve ever been,” Vela said. “However, with all that being said, I think the conference this year is going to be the best ever because every team can beat anyone on any given day. It’s going to be very, very competitive and I think that it’s going to go down to the wire.”