As they close a rigorous stretch of road matches, the Lobos opened the NAU Mountain Classic with a 2-0 victory over Grand Canyon University at Lumberjack Stadium.
After a quiet first half by both clubs, New Mexico announced its arrival after the break, sparked by junior midfielder Casey Murphy’s goal in the 51st minute. Freshman defender Avadney Osbourne sent a cross which Murphy took advantage of by sending her lone shot of the day into the back of the net.
It was Murphy’s first goal of the year, and Osbourne’s assist was the only one of the day for either club.
The Jackalopes had no answer for the Lobo defense, and UNM put things completely out of reach off of the foot of senior midfielder and defender Maddie Irwin.
Prior to the Mountain Classic, Head coach Heather Dyche said she was approaching this season with the mindset that it is a marathon, not a sprint.
In Monday’s press conference, Dyche added that she saw fatigue come late in conference play last season. She said it isn’t likely that a team from the Mountain West will punch their ticket to the NCAAs without a conference title, a reason why a lot of upperclassmen haven’t been on the field.
"It's really important to us to get significant time for a large number of players in non-conference games," Dyche said in a release. "Tonight I thought it was obvious that approach has paid off. Players that didn't start came on in the second half and changed the game for us. We also have a group of upperclassmen and seniors that are supporting and mentoring this team.”
The Lobos (3-2-1) made the most of their opportunities shooting five of their nine shots on goal, and limiting the Jackalopes to two of their four shots on target. GCU (2-5-0) didn’t have a single shot on goal in the second half.
New Mexico also had a six to three advantage in the corner, but was flagged for four offside calls, three of which came in the second half.
Dyche gave starting junior keeper Tayler Hammack some time out of the goal and put freshman Emily Johnson in at goalie for nearly 16 minutes.
"I was pleased with the entire group today," she said.
After dropping the first two matches of the year, the Lobos have gone 3-0-1 in the past four contests and look to stay undefeated in the final game of the tournament against host school Northern Arizona (2-4) on Sunday. First touch is scheduled for 2 p.m.
Liam Cary-Eaves is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers volleyball, women’s basketball and baseball. He can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter @Liam_CE.