There’s no tougher way to start the season than what the New Mexico women’s soccer team experienced at the Lobo Invitational this past weekend.
The Lobos faced two top-15 teams, including No. 1 in the nation, at their season-opening classic in Florida State and Texas Tech. The Lobos dropped both games, 3-1 on Friday night to the defending national champion Seminoles, and 1-0 Sunday to the No. 15 Red Raiders.
Despite the losses, the Lobos kept pace with both squads for significant stretches. Florida State’s offensive efficiency proved too much for the Lobos to handle, but UNM head coach Heather Dyche felt disappointed in the team’s inability to convert goals against Texas Tech.
In Sunday’s game, she said, the Lobos let it slip away.
“I thought today was a frustrating one because we did enough to win it,” Dyche said. “We created some really good chances at the end there that we needed to put away, and I think if you play an opponent like that you’re not going to get 20 chances, so if you get three, one of them needs to be a goal.”
Texas Tech forward Janine Beckie took a well-played ball out of the Red Raiders’ defensive side to score a goal 13 minutes into the game. Forward/midfielder Caity Heap found Beckie onside on a run, and Beckie found an open shot from 30 yards out.
After the goal, New Mexico created six solid chances in the first half to net an equalizer, but couldn’t finish. Texas Tech deflected four of those six shots. After the first 45 minutes, both teams took seven shots, but the Lobos tried six corner kicks to the Raiders’ one.
That trend continued into the second half. The Lobos attempted another eight shots, including two more on goal.
For the game, senior Lobo midfielder Lindsey Guice took two shots and sophomore midfielder Claire Lynch fired three shots with two on goal. Redshirt senior forward Madisyn Olguin also took three shots.
“I think we outplayed them for the most part,” Guice said. “I think this weekend taught us the intensity and the level of play we need to have to go into the season, and I think also the way we played showed us our potential and what we’re capable of for the rest of the season.”
The Lobo defense, meanwhile, contained Texas Tech to four second-half shots, two on goal. Redshirt senior UNM goalie Cassie Ulrich made four saves, with two coming in the second half.
UNM drew a solid crowd of 3,629 for its regular-season debut. Nearly 2,600 fans came to watch Friday night’s game against Florida State, where Lynch netted the Lobos’ only goal in the 53rd minute.
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Though the team played one of the toughest opening-weekend schedules in the country, junior Lobo defender Brooke Webster said she wouldn’t have changed the schedule.
“I wouldn’t want any easier of an opponent,” Webster said. “I think it’s really important to be challenged in our opening games and see what we can do.”
The Lobos return to play Wednesday with a road trip to in-state rival New Mexico State. That game will begin at 6 p.m. at Aggie Memorial Stadium in Las Cruces.
Florida State 1, Southern California 0.
In Sunday’s other game, top-ranked FSU (2-0) completed a two-game sweep at the invitational following its victory over USC (1-1).
Forward Cheyna Williams, Florida State’s top returning scorer from last year’s national championship run, had a big opening weekend in recording a goal and two assists. After scoring the game-winner against New Mexico on Friday, Williams provided an assist to the only goal of Sunday’s early game.
Williams initially fired a shot at USC’s Sammy Jo Prudhomme with seven and a half minutes in regulation. The Trojan goalie made save, but Seminole midfielder Isabella Schmid scored on the rebound shot attempt.
J.R. Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @JROppenheim.