It’s simply a coincidence that Heather Dyche will face her alma mater in her first regular-season coaching outing for the UNM women’s soccer team.
The game was also scheduled prior to Florida State’s 2014 national championship victory and its No. 1 preseason ranking.
With that in mind, Dyche said she and the Lobos expect a tough game Friday night when the Lobos host the top-ranked Seminoles in the 2015 Lobo Invitational at the UNM Soccer Complex. The game begins at 7:30 p.m. following the 5 p.m. match between USC and Texas Tech.
It’s a no-lose situation for the Lobos, Dyche said, considering how talented this Florida State squad is. A win would be among the most impressive accomplishments in school history, but even a losing effort against the Seminoles gives a boost to the Lobos’ RPI.
“We'd sure like to win, there's no doubt about it,” she said. “But my goal for the season is to win the Mountain West tournament, so I think if you go into the Florida State game and we come out a better team regardless of what the result is, then it keeps pushing us to our ultimate goal.”
Dyche, who played defender for the Seminoles in the late 1990s/early 2000s, admitted the game will be bittersweet because players are always fans of the programs they competed for. Yet Albuquerque is her hometown, and Friday night she’ll be 100 percent Lobo.
She’s a competitor, she said, and wants to win.
“And then I hope Florida State turns around on Sunday and pummels USC, you know?” Dyche joked. “When you're on the field, it's all business. Afterward you're proud of your alma mater.”
These Lobos are no strangers to this type of situation. Two years ago UNM traveled to Chapel Hill, North Carolina to play the No. 1 Tar Heels, who had also won the NCAA title the year prior. UNM held a 1-0 lead through the first half before falling 2-1.
Redshirt senior forward Madisyn Olguin made her first career start in that game. What she learned from it, she said, is that players must give a complete effort against teams of such high caliber.
“You can't hold back on teams like that,” said Olguin, now a senior. “We are young, but we also have a lot of seniors on the team, so our voices on the field are what's going really going to push us through and just step up to Florida State, to their caliber of play.”
It will be an uphill climb for the Lobos. The Seminoles attack patiently and methodically, Dyche said, and try to double the possession rate over their opponents. To combat that, Dyche wants her defenders to play higher with a bit more midfield action. The goal, she said, is to prevent FSU from developing a rhythm.
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Florida State returns a potent offensive threat in forward Cheyna Williams, who scored 14 goals a year ago. The Seminoles also have an international flair, with seven players from outside the United States. That brings a different level of sophistication to the game, Dyche said.
“To me, it's a stepping stone along the way,” Dyche said. “If you can defend against Florida State, you can defend against Mountain West teams.”
It’s early, but Olguin said the team so far is coming together well.
“It's baby steps,” she said, “but I think we're going to hit the peak of our mountain right when we want to.”
J.R. Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at email@example.com or Twitter @JROppenheim.