After the opening weekend, the Mountain West looks like a balanced women’s soccer conference. Every team – except one-win Fresno State – has between three to five wins in their overall records.
That makes New Mexico’s 2-0 start in MW play all the more valuable.
UNM (4-5-0 overall) is one of three teams to survive the first conference weekend unbeaten, joining Colorado College (4-6-1) and San Jose State (4-4-2) with unblemished starts. Two of the five-win teams -- San Diego State and Wyoming -- split the first two conference games and the other two – UNLV and Utah State – dropped the first two MW contests.
“It's huge,” Lobo head coach Heather Dyche said Tuesday. “I mean, six points in our conference is huge. People qualified for the tournament with six points in the past because everybody can beat everybody.”
UNLV (5-6-0 overall), along with Nevada, will be in Albuquerque this weekend for the Lobos’ first meaningful action at home in a month. UNM last played at home against Idaho State on Sept. 3 and have only had an intrasquad scrimmage at the UNM Soccer Complex over that span.
The Lobos have gone 2-2 since the Idaho State game, including last weekend’s victories over Utah State and Boise State.
“We've been gone so much,” Dyche said. “The only time we did play here, it was a Cherry-Silver (scrimmage). I just hope that we can play the way we have been playing and let the crowd see that and make it a great environment because we're tough to beat here.”
For the first time all season, the Lobos will consistently play teams more at their caliber as opposed to the Florida States and Minnesotas they’ve seen in the nonconference. Though it may be a sigh of relief to take a break from the nation’s best programs, that doesn’t mean things will get easier in the Mountain West, Dyche said.
The Lobo coach called the Mountain West a conference on the rise, so there is an element of pressure involved.
“There are rivalries with all these teams,” she said. “There is no bad team in our conference. Everybody beat each other up this weekend, so that's a good thing and a bad thing. But it also shows you the level is rising, so the teams that are used to being the easy ones to beat are not.”
Nevada (3-5-2 overall) opened its conference slate with a 1-0 loss to Colorado College and 2-all tie against Air Force, both games in Reno, Nevada. The Wolfpack’s three wins were against UC Davis, Sacramento State and Hawaii. Midfielder Lindsey Salcido has three goals, two of them game-winners, and two assists on the season to pace Nevada offensively, and Hannah Miller, also a midfielder, has two.
UNLV’s two conference losses came against Air Force and Colorado College, and the Rebels (0-2-0 MW) gave up two goals in each of those outings. They do have two games where they scored four goals and another three-goal outing. Forwards Jodi Barber and Susie Bernal lead the team in scoring, Jodi with four goals and Susie with three.
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“Both teams are on the rise right now,” Dyche said. “They've had some good results in the offseason and I have a lot of respect for both their coaches. I think we're going to come here ready to play.”
J.R. Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JROppenheim.