New Mexico –1 Washington-0 (Elite Eight)
SEATTLE, Wash. – The challenge was clear for the New Mexico Lobos on Saturday’s frigid Elite Eight match; survive and advance. New Mexico (14-5-2)did just that withstanding freezing temperatures, a frozen pitch and a formidable foe in the Washington Huskies(16-2-4). The Lobos’ 1-0 win put New Mexico in the Final Four for the second time in school history thanks to Ben McKendry’s first-half goal.
The game was played at a back-and-forth pace as temperature sat in the 20’s all day in Seattle. The heavy freeze turned the Huskies’ field into a solid block as many players elected to play in turf shoes.
The Lobo attack was a constant threat in the first 45 minutes of the match as Christopher Wehan nearly scored a pair of goals off long-distance strikes. After missing by inches on several shots, Ben McKendry found the back of the net.
The scoring action, which occurred in the 37th minute, began with James Rogers possessing along the right edge of the box. Rogers skipped a pass to Oniel Fisher who found Ben McKendry for a point-blank goal.
The Lobos dominated the first-half statistics in shots (10-1), shots on goal (4-0) and corner kicks (3-1). Wehan recorded four of the ten New Mexico shots.
The Washington attack would come to life in the second half. The Huskies outshot the Lobos early in the half as they took a majority of the shots in through the 75th minute. Washington tested the Lobo defense several times in the final minutes, but UNM absorbed the pressure from Washington’s long throw-ins.
Coach Fishbein and the Lobos nearly got insurance goals in the final minutes off a pair of counter attacks from Rogers and Wehan. Wehan’s breakaway shot was saved while Rogers missed high.
UNM won the statistics battle by match’s end as well. The Cherry & Silver held a 16-8 advantage in shots (5-3 shots on goal).
New Mexico advances to its second-ever Final Four where they will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday, December 13 in Philadelphia. It’s UNM’s first trip to the College Cup since advancing the national championship match in 2005.
New Mexico (36:24) Ben McKendry (Oniel Fisher assist)
New Mexico starters: Lisch (GK), Gibbons, Venter, Miele, McGovern, Kafari, Calderon, McKendry, Rogers, Wehan and Hansen.
First Half Subs: Fisher (33:02), Rochowski (42:34)
“I couldn’t be prouder of our team. We came into… I wouldn’t say a hostile environment because I think this is a great fan base, but we came into a really challenging situation. We were really good in the first half. I thought we were exceptional, but unfortunately we only scored one goal. Washington is a challenging team to play against with their flip throw. We didn’t over emphasize that going into this game. We told the guys we were just going to embrace the challenge.” - Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein on the first half
“It was a tough game to come into because I think the world of Jamie Clark and Jeff Rowland… That was a tremendous Washington team we faced tonight. Tonight was their first loss at home all season and that says a lot about how good they are. It also says a lot about our guys and our performance tonight.” - Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein on beating Washington
“We had some concerns going into today about playing on the field. We would have preferred the match be played at a different field with artificial turf. As soon as the official ruled that we were going to play here (at Husky Soccer Stadium), we didn’t make it an issue about it with our players. Our guys are mature and they dealt with it. I think the guys that were a genius tonight were the two guys I coach with; Paul Souders and Brandon Moss. They organized getting the turf shoes before the game. We got everybody in a pair of them, and I thought that was pretty important in that first half. The other team was skating around out there.” - Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein on the playing conditions.
The New Mexico Lobos will face the Notre Dame Fighting Irish on Friday, December 13 in Philadelphia in the NCAA College Cup. The Lobos and Irish will play at 3 p.m. (MST) on ESPNU.