For a moment in the second half, the Lobos were within one goal of the best team in the country. Thirty seconds later, No. 1 Florida State took it away.
Sophomore midfielder Claire Lynch’s goal on Florida State midway through the second half electrified the crowd and gave New Mexico a spark, but the Seminoles’ strong offense struck back, taking a 3-1 lead to win the Lobo Invitational.
The game drew a large crowd for a soccer game: 2,589 Lobo fans in attendance. A Lobo soccer event has not drawn a crowd that size since September 2013.
“Always going up against the defending national champions, it’s like, ‘wow,’” Lynch said. “They have to be good, but I think we went in like we had nothing to lose. They’re the defending national champs and we’re UNM, so just go all-out. And we got a goal.”
UNM coach Heather Dyche, making her regular-season debut against her alma mater, knew Florida State would be a handful. After the game, though, she said her team can build off the experience.
“If that’s the best team in the country, and they are – there’s no doubt about it, they’re incredible and very good – but I thought we were really disciplined in how we defended them,” Dyche said. “We weren’t chasing everywhere. We didn’t give up a whole lot of easy opportunities, and we created some really good ones as well.”
Lynch snapped a lengthy Florida State shutout streak. The Seminoles had not surrendered a goal in the team's previous 683 minutes, 7 seconds.
At the 53-minute mark, Florida State goalie Cassie Miller saved a shot attempt from senior midfielder Lindsey Guice on the left side of the net. Lynch found the loose ball off the rebound and converted an easy shot. Guice earned an assist on the play.
“That’s kind of how it is in soccer: You never know if the goalie is going to give it up or not, and luckily she did, and I was right there to put it away,” Lynch said. “I can’t even describe the feeling afterward. It was just scoring against the national champs.”
However, the Seminoles drained that momentum quickly. Forward Cheyna Williams, Florida State’s top returning scorer, scored in the same fashion Lynch had 30 seconds later. UNM redshirt senior goalie Cassie Ulrich stopped Megan Connolly’s shot, but Williams scored on the rebound.
Other than UNM’s goal, Florida State kept its offensive pressure high, especially in the first half. The Lobos managed an early scoring opportunity when Lynch found Guice on a crossing pass in front of the FSU goal, but Miller made the save. It was UNM’s only shot in the first half.
Midfielder Natalia Kuikka struck first for Florida State off a Williams assist. Williams brought the ball close to the end line against a Lobo defender and passed to Kuikka for the goal.
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Florida State added another goal from forward Berglind Thorvaldsdottir at the 28:41 mark off a Carson Pickett assist.
“We want to play the best and we want to set a standard,” Dyche said. “We want to get better, so I think you do that by playing teams like that.”
The Lobos will resume play in the Lobo Invitational at 1 p.m. Sunday against Texas Tech, who fell to Southern California 1-0 in Friday’s early game. USC and Florida State square off at 10:30 a.m.
J.R. Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JROppenheim.