The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team opens the conference tournament against Old Dominion on Wednesday at 2:30 p.m. in Charlotte, North Carolina.
The Lobos are coming off of a 1-0 loss to Charlotte, where the Lobos seemed ready to force overtime against one of the best teams in the conference before an 88th minute goal from the 49ers secured the victory for the hosts. UNM struggled to produce shots, recording only two shots, neither of which were on target.
A potential rematch between the two awaits in the semi-finals, should both teams win on Wednesday.
In order to advance, the Lobos will have to find a way to take down the No. 2 seeded Monarchs, who came to Albuquerque in the conference opener back in September and went home with a 2-1 win over UNM. ODU is 10-4-2 on the year, with a 6-2 record in conference play. It wrapped up the regular season with a 3-0 loss at No. 3 Kentucky.
The Monarchs wasted no time jumping out to a lead when they played in Albuquerque, scoring in the second minute of the match. They have a two-headed offensive threat in Max Wilschrey and Niko Klosterhalfen, who have combined for 18 of the team’s 29 goals on the season. Wilschrey is third in the conference for goals scored, and Klosterhalfen is second in assists.
Omar Grey scored the only goal for the Lobos in that last matchup, and it was Grey’s last goal of the year. If the Lobos want to extend their season, they would benefit from him finding his way onto the scoresheet once again.
UNM also needs to find a way to hold results through the ends of games, the Charlotte game is the perfect example of the team coming close to securing a positive result before a mistake at the end costs them dearly. The Lobos suffered in similar fashion against Marshall, when two mental mistakes in the second half against the Herd cost them a win that would have secured a place in the conference tournament without having to rely on the other results around the conference.
The game, as well as all the others in the tournament, will be available for viewing through ESPN+, ESPN’s paid subscription service. Semi-final matches will be played on Friday, with the championship being played Sunday.
The Lobos had five players named to All-Conference teams on Tuesday, with Tom Smart earning the highest honor as a member of the All-Conference first team. Nick Taylor was honored with a place on the second team, freshman Omar Grey and Billy Jones were named to the third team and Grey was named to the the All-Freshman team as well. Erik Virgen was the Lobos fifth and final honoree, joining Grey on the All-Freshman team.
Cameron Goeldner is a sports beat reporter and photographer for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers men’s soccer, women’s basketball, softball and the Albuquerque Isotopes, but also contributes content for baseball, basketball, football and track and field. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @goeldfinger.