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Senior Niko Hansen tries to evade a FAU player during one of the Lobo's 2015 games at the UNM Soccer Complex. The team's spring season begins Saturday against UNLV and Utah Valley. 

Senior Niko Hansen tries to evade a FAU player during one of the Lobo's 2015 games at the UNM Soccer Complex. The team's spring season begins Saturday against UNLV and Utah Valley. 

Soccer: Spring squad looks to improve on disappointing fall

After several weeks of vigorous training, the UNM men’s soccer team won’t leave anything to chance, kicking off its spring exhibition season in Las Vegas this weekend.

“We’re excited,” said head coach Jeremy Fishbein. “We’ve been training really hard. It’s been 10 weeks of hard work and I think the guys are ready to face some competition outside of their own team.”

For the next five weekends, the Lobos will play eight opponents at five different locations. The first match will be on Saturday against the UNLV Rebels and Utah Valley Wolverines.

The last exhibition is set for April 30, when the Lobos play Denver in Highlands Ranch, Colorado.

Only one competition will be played at home; that match is scheduled for April 23 against the UCCS Mountain Lions.

Fishbein said it’s unfortunate that almost all the matches are away from home and the fans, but he’s focused on the positives.

“The guys get to be challenged in different environments. They also get to play at some scenic places,” he said.

Las Vegas is certainly known to be a fun environment, but this weekend, the Lobos’ main focus is to win their first two spring matches.

The Wolverines finished their 2015 fall season with a 14-6-2 record, while the Rebels finished 12-6-1. Both teams had winning seasons, but both play different styles of soccer.

“Utah Valley has a more direct and powerful style. UNLV will probably keep the ball on the ground a lot more,” Fishbein said. “I think it’s a good pair of games for opening weekend.”

Spring matches, while they  might not foreshadow what kind of season the Lobos will have in the fall, are helpful in figuring out where the team is at the moment.

“After all that training, right now is just a matter of tackling this weekend and getting things rolling,” Fishbein said. “This is our ability to prepare for the fall.”

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The Lobos are working hard to avoid a repeat of their 2015 fall season, when they went 8-6-4.

That record was not enough to get them to the NCAA Tournament, the second year in a row New Mexico missed out. Until 2014, the Lobos hadn’t missed the NCAA tournament since 2008.

But 2016 is looking a lot better for the Lobos thus far. 

During the 2016 National Signing Day in February, UNM got what Top Drawer Soccer ranked as the fifth best recruiting class in the nation.

Three out of the six members of that class, Chris Lovato, Luke Lawrence and Matt Constant have already started practicing with the team.

More positives came for the Lobos this month when freshman defender Aaron Herrera joined the U-20 National Team for 10 days to take part in the Dallas Cup.

Herrera was named Man of the Match for his performance during the US’s 3-3 draw against TSG 1899 Hoffenheim, a German team.

Fishbein said the team’s energy is very good at the moment and that he’s just excited to get this first weekend going.

“The three new guys have transitioned seamlessly. We are excited to see them play in a Lobo jersey. And the other guys are happy to be back on the field," he said. "We are ready to get the season rolling."

Isabel Gonzalez is a sports reporter for the Daily Lobo. She can be reached at or on Twitter @cisabelg.

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