SEATTLE, Wash. - The tenth-ranked University of New Mexico men's soccer team played their final regular season road match on Sunday afternoon at Seattle University (3-12-1, 1-7-1 MPSF). On the line for UNM was a chance to clinch a regular season Mountain Pacific Sports Federation championship.
The Lobos took care of their business with a 3-0 shutout of the Redhawks. Goals from Ben McKendry, Devon Sandoval and Michael Calderon propelled UNM to the win. The win gave the program its seventh conference win and 21st point, which gives them a four-point lead over second-place Air Force with only one match left to play. This marks New Mexico's eighth regular season championship title since 2001. The team also earned a first-round bye in the MPSF Conference Tournament, which New Mexico is hosting November 8-11 at the UNM Soccer Complex.
"It was a good win, and it was good to get our fifth consecutive shutout. We got a couple of nice goals and were pretty comfortable in the game. It wasn't the complete performance that I would have hoped for in terms of maturity and playing shape. I thought at times we let the game get stretched a little bit. Our challenge is to play to our high standard regardless of our opponent. In that sense, I thought we could have been a little bit more disciplined and mature. I thought at the end of the day we got some good goals, good team energy and were able to clinch a conference title."
Seattle came out aggressive to open the match as the Redhawks took the match's first three shots in the first two minutes of action. After that initial burst of attacks by Seattle, New Mexico took control of the game. The Lobos tallied six shots and three corners in the next 28 minutes. Freshman Ben McKendry capped the aggressive play by putting UNM on the board in the 30th minute.
The midfielder's third goal of the season came on a corner kick. The short corner from Blake Smith went to Michael Calderon before McKendry headed home the goal. The play, scored as a double assist, gave Calderon his fourth assist of the year and Smith his NCAA-leading twelfth assist.
The match's first goal was the only score of the first half. After settling down in the early going, the Lobos started to control the game and the halftime statistics showed. New Mexico led Seattle in shots (8-5), shots on goal (2-1) and corner kicks (3-2).
There wasn't another aggressive opening to a half for Seattle after the halftime intermission. After the Redhawks' Chase Hanson missed high on a shot in the 53rd minute, the Lobos answered with a barrage of shots. New Mexico peppered the goal and Seattle goalkeeper Shane Haworth to the tune of five shots in less than four minutes. Haworth saved shots by James Rogers and Devon Sandoval, but his save of Sandoval earned UNM a corner kick. Devon Sandoval would not be denied seven seconds later after a James Rogers shot bounced back to the senior. Sandoval put away the goal from close range to push the New Mexico lead to two goals with thirty minutes remaining.
There was be no relenting of New Mexico's pressure by Coach Jeremy Fishbein and company. Michael Calderon, who registered the earlier assist on McKendry's goal, found the back on his own just nine minutes after Sandoval's goal. It was the junior midfielder's third goal of the season.
Calderon's scoring strike was the final goal of the game as the Lobo left the pitch victorious 3-0. Goalkeepers Victor Rodriguez and Patrick Poblete would both see time in goal for New Mexico as Rodriguez tallied one save and Poblete three. UNM's clean sheet was the fifth consecutive shutout and the ninth of the 2012 season. That streak currently gives New Mexico a streak of over 465 consecutive minutes without giving up a goal.
"I think the guys redefined themselves as a team after that second loss to Air Force. They made a commitment to team defending, and the guys have been great defensively since then. They've eliminated chances and re-committed themselves to our blue-collar identity as a team," said Coach Fishbein's of his team defensive-minded play recently.
The victory advances New Mexico's record to 14-3-0 (7-2-0 MPSF), and the Lobos now look toward their final regular season match. UNM will host Houston Baptist on Saturday, November 3 at 7 p.m. at the UNM Soccer Complex. It will be Senior Day, and it will mark the program's last regular season match in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation. After over a dozen seasons in the MPSF, the Lobos will be a member of Conference USA beginning in the 2013 season.