For the second year in a row, the University of New Mexico women's soccer team advanced to the championship match in the Mountain West Tournament — and lost.
Last season, the Lobos knocked out San José State in the semifinal round on penalty kicks, but a year later the Spartans exacted their revenge and took down UNM 1-0 — denying New Mexico a shot at a conference title and automatic NCAA berth.
New Mexico (13-6-2, 7-2-2 MW) found itself in unfamiliar territory — trailing for the first time in the Mountain West Tournament — after San José State fresh Haleigh Wynne fired a shot past UNM goalkeeper Emily Johnson. Johnson appeared to get a piece of the shot attempt, but not enough to prevent the ball from finding its way into the net for a 1-0 lead just 22:12 into the match.
And that was all the cushion senior Spartan goalie Paige Simoneau needed.
Simoneau wasn't asked to make a save until just before the half, when she gobbled up Jadyn Edwards' header in the final minute. But the keeper came up huge in the second half, saving three more attempts en route to thwarted the Lobos' effort to find the equalizer.
Johnson saved the only other Spartan shot on goal in the 27th minute of the first half, keeping the score 1-0 and giving the Lobos hope.
New Mexico had several good opportunities throughout the match and actually outshot the Spartans 7-6 in the first half, while holding a massive 5-0 advantage in corner kicks. While those all proved fruitless, the Lobos continued to create chances after halftime.
The Spartans failed to record a single shot on goal in the second half, which left the door open for UNM. Senior Amelia Bierle sent a shot toward Simoneau at the 48:08 mark and made another following a corner kick in the 54th minute to protect the slim lead.
San José State's goalie rose up to record her final save as the 79th minute drew to a close, staving off a Jennifer Muñoz game-tying shot attempt — though the Spartans weren't out of the woods yet.
New Mexico continue to apply pressure and had another great chance off a Jessica Nelson flip throw, but were unable to send home a loose ball in front of the net.
The Spartans were able to endure a handful of exchanges like that over the course of the match and overcame being outshot 6-1 in the second half. They were effective in killing the clock and clearing the ball for the most part and did what was needed to ensure the lead held as the final seconds ticked off the clock in front of their home crowd.
San José State's 1-0 victory marked its 11th shoutout of the season and secured a second Mountain West Championship in the past four years under head coach Lauren Hanson. The Spartans' postseason will continue in the NCAA Tournament on Friday, though the time and opponent is still to be determined.
Robert Maler is the sports editor for the Daily Lobo. He primarily covers basketball and baseball and contributes content for various other sports as well. He can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @Robert_Maler.