During New Mexico’s conference-opening road trip Sept. 25-27, Cassie Ulrich didn’t notice when she moved into third in UNM’s record books for most wins by a goalkeeper — at least not immediately.
“Last weekend I think, maybe after the Boise game or something, someone said I was tied,” she said. “It got tweeted about, and then, of course, the win against Boise I moved up into that. I just found out through my teammates, and (head coach) Heather (Dyche) said in the press conference that I had.”
Ulrich’s win over Boise State on Sept. 27 pushed her ahead of Shannon Adragna into third place with 22 career wins. With this past Friday’s win against Nevada, Ulrich now sits five away from tying Kristen Winters for second in program history.
Ulrich, a senior, said such recognition is a team effort rather than an individual one, and she is proud to be a part of a team that is able to accomplish those feats. Everyone works together, both on the field and in practice preparations, to win those games, she said.
“What it comes down to is each and every one of those game days and getting it done,” she said. “It’s a great effort all the way around for us to get those wins, and I’m glad I’ve been here for that.”
Ulrich already has 30 saves in 11 games in 2015, a 1.29 goals-against average and five wins.
She also sits tied for second with Colorado College’s Louisa Mackenzie in the conference, with three shutouts. Only San Diego State’s Melanie Vaughn has more, with five.
“You feel safe. You feel safe that she’s back there,” Lobo forward Ruth Bruciaga said. “If we ever get into a pickle, she’s just a safe player. I have full confidence in her, and she’s an awesome leader as well.”
A vocal player on the field, Ulrich said her communication helps her stay keyed into the game. That’s a critical component for a goalkeeper, she said, because the position grants a vantage point to be able to see what other players may not.
“Everyone has a responsibility on the field to communicate, but I have to take that,” she said. “If someone’s missing something, I’ve got to be that voice for them.”
The Lobos went 2-5 in their nonconference schedule, but in five of those games the Lobos gave up one goal or fewer. The only nonconference shutout game happened against New Mexico State.
The strong nonconference schedule had a key benefit, Ulrich said. Since the team saw such varied styles – from teams keeping a big shape offensively, to more aggressive opponents – Ulrich said she and the defenders can now adjust to teams on the fly as individual games progress.
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UNM went on to blank conference foes Utah State and Nevada, and surrendered only one goal to Boise State. Sunday’s three goals given up is the most since the Aug. 30 game against Colorado, a 4-0 decision.
Though Ulrich found success in those games, the Lobo defense has contributed quite a bit as well. Dyche said the enthusiasm between her goalkeeper and her defenders has been reciprocated; they benefit from Ulrich’s energy, and she thrives off of the defense.
“She’s behind them and she’s talking and she’s leading them, but I also think that Cassie gets fired up seeing them do the right things,” Dyche said. “It spreads both ways.”
Ulrich said she hopes the defenders feed off her energy, but she acknowledged their efforts fire her up, too.
“When they make a tackle it pumps me up and I get excited, and I make sure to let them know and affirm them that they did a great job there,” she said. “I think it’s valuable for them to know that, and it gives them the confidence to keep doing that.”
With seven guaranteed games left on the schedule and tournament play still in the picture, Ulrich can match or even surpass Winters’ 28 wins as goalkeeper. Though Ulrich is aware she can reach that mark, the record itself isn’t the priority, she said.
“What is important to me is getting those wins because that’s going to set us up for the conference championship,” Ulrich said. “And that’s all that matters: getting the result for the team.”
J.R. Oppenheim is the managing editor for the Daily Lobo. Contact him at email@example.com or on Twitter @JROppenheim.