Skip to Content, Navigation, or Footer.
The Daily Lobo The Independent Voice of UNM since 1895
Latest Issue
Read our print edition on Issuu
	New Mexico’s James Rogers works to keep a Notre Dame player away from the ball during their NCAA semifinal game Friday in Philadelphia. The Lobos ended their season with an appearance in the Final Four.

New Mexico’s James Rogers works to keep a Notre Dame player away from the ball during their NCAA semifinal game Friday in Philadelphia. The Lobos ended their season with an appearance in the Final Four.

Men's Soccer: Three-year legacy ends at NCAA Final Four

The legacy established by the 2013 New Mexico men’s soccer team extends beyond its NCAA tournament semifinal run, head coach Jeremy Fishbein said. It spans the past three seasons.

UNM joined Maryland and Connecticut as the only three teams to reach the NCAA tournament’s third round consecutively over the last three seasons. This year’s trip to the Final Four became the culmination in that string of success, Fishbein said.

The run came to a close last Friday in Philadelphia when UNM fell to eventual national champion Notre Dame in a 2-0 game. The Lobos, making their second Final Four appearance as a No. 7 seed, reached the semifinals with shutout wins over George Mason, Penn State and Washington.

“I think the legacy’s a great one, and a standard’s been set and the bar is high,” Fishbein said Tuesday in his final press conference of the season. “We’ve got a lot to look forward to as a program and for players within the program. High expectations.”

Fishbein said he hasn’t taken a lot of time reflecting on what happened against Notre Dame. Despite a strong UNM start, the Irish took advantage of two rare Lobo miscues and converted them into goals. The first goal came on an “uncharacteristic giveaway” at midfield, while the other came off a deflection, he said.

Notre Dame then won its first national championship Sunday with a 2-1 victory over Maryland.

“It was unfortunate, but that being said our attacking guys created some chances but didn’t deliver,” Fishbein said. “If you’re not going to score goals, you’re not going to win games.”

In addition to its Final Four appearance, the Lobos (14-6-2) won the Conference USA regular-season championship in their first season in the league. Their 7-1-1 conference record included wins over then-No. 13 Tulsa, then-No. 10 Alabama-Birmingham and then-No. 24 Old Dominion.

Playing in C-USA boosted UNM’s ratings percentage index, or RPI, over the course of the season and helped the team in its postseason seeding process. It also helped restore some confidence to the team after a somewhat rocky nonconference schedule with losses to then-No. 11 Cal State Northridge, Drake and UC Davis.

Those losses, in retrospect, aided UNM in its maturation process this season, Fishbein said, though it didn’t feel that way at the time.

“Man, some of those losses were painful,” he said. “Northridge, Davis, Drake. Couldn’t believe it. It was the end of the world at the time, and I guess that’s where these experiences help you mature as a coach. It helps players mature, that you can’t be as reactionary as guys were at times and you have to believe in the process, which we do.”

Enjoy what you're reading?
Get content from The Daily Lobo delivered to your inbox

UNM loses four players to graduation in defender Kyle Venter, midfielders Michael Kafari and Michael Calderon, and goalkeeper Michael Lisch. All four seniors are quite different, Fishbein said, and it’s unfair to lump them all together.

“Each of them achieved what they wanted in coming here,” Fishbein said of his four seniors. “They made huge contributions to the program, big-time impact this year. That’s what you hope for any of your players.”

Venter and Kafari spent their whole collegiate careers at UNM, and Venter redshirted his first year. Both contributed heavily to the defensive side of the ball, marking a shift for Kafari from forward to defensive midfield. Calderon and Lisch both arrived as transfers, Calderon playing for two seasons and Lisch playing one.

The MLS extended invitations to Venter, Calderon and Kafari for its annual combine Jan. 10-14 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. Only 50 college players receive invitations, and Charlotte’s Tyler Gibson was C-USA’s only other representative.

Though the seniors played prominent roles for UNM this season, several younger players like freshmen Niko Hansen, Christopher Wehan, Nicholas Rochowski, James Wypich, along with sophomore Ben McKendry, saw significant playing time.

Hansen finished in a first-place tie for the team lead for goals scored with junior James Rogers; each scored seven. McKendry added six goals while Wehan, the C-USA freshman of the year, scored three. In all, six players scored three goals or more. Calderon had six and junior Riley McGovern had five.

The amount of action seen among the younger players well benefit them moving forward, Fishbein said, as long as they stay motivated. The team will take a break over the holiday but will resume its work when classes restart on Jan. 20.

“You can’t be complacent, but that’s never been an issue here with our program,” Fishbein said. “Guys got a taste of it and they’re going to want to be better next year. They know people are going to be gunning for them, so it’s a tremendous group. It’s going to be a lot of fun working with them in the offseason.”

Powered by SNworks Solutions by The State News
All Content © 2024 The Daily Lobo