ALBUQEURQUE, N.M. - The fifth-ranked Lobos recorded their second shutout in a row on Sunday afternoon as they downed Northern Illinois 3-0. New Mexico's win clinched the 2012 Nike Lobo Invitational title. It also marked the second-straight tournament victory for the program, which also won the TLC Plumbing, Heating and Cooling Lobo Invitational last weekend.
"It was a funny 3-0 victory. On one hand I am really happy with the result. We accomplished some things statistically, which were our goals to get a shutout, to score multiple goals and not allow too many opportunities. All in all, I thought it was a pretty average performance by our team to be quite honest. I was pleased with some guys' performances, but there was a lot of average stuff out there," explained Head Coach Jeremy Fishbein after the match.
The Lobos got on the board thanks to a heavy dose of Devon Sandoval early in the match. Sandoval scored the first goal of the game in the 20th minute off a cross from Blake Smith from the right edge of the box. Smith's pass found the head of Sandoval who put it in the goal to the near post.
The senior from Albuquerque would find the back of the net again just ten minutes later. The goal was the result of some hustle from the UNM forward. A NIU defender looked to head the ball away from sophomore Carson Baldinger. The ball ricocheted and spun past the Husky keeper, and it rolled deep into the box. Sandoval out-ran the Husky defense and tapped in the goal for his seventh of the season. His second goal of the day was also Sandoval's third goal of the weekend.
"Those were good scrappy goals. He got those through pure effort, toughness and grit, and I don't know if everyone on our team displayed that. That's who we are. You can be as talented as you want, but we got to be a blue-collar team," said Coach Fishbein of his senior's goals.
With a halftime score of 2-0, New Mexico lead NIU in shots (nine to four), corner kicks (four to two) and shots on goal (three to none) during the first half. Those advantages proved to be a trend as the Lobos owned those categories in the second half as well.
The final goal of the match, and the only scoring action of the second half, saw Blake Smith take his turn finding the back of the net. The senior fired a left-footed shot from the top of the box that was blocked, but the ball bounced back to Smith. The Texan took one touch deeper into the box before driving the ball to the far post for the goal.
New Mexico picked up their second tournament title of the season as they placed four members on the All-Tournament Team. Senior Blake Smith, junior Kyle Venter sophomore James Rogers and sophomore Matthew Gibbons represented the Lobos on the All-Tournament Team. Victor Rodriguez, with two shutouts on the weekend, was named Defensive MVP. Devon Sandoval with three goals in two games received Offensive MVP honors.
Sunday afternoon's match was part of a "Fight ALS" day for the Lobos who helped raise money for ALS research. The disease touched the program earlier this year. ALS, more commonly known as Lou Gehrig's Disease, took the life of former Lobo Pat Grange at the age of 29. New Mexico promoted a charity 3k walk earlier in the day. The team wore special "Fight ALS" t-shirts, which featured Grange's last name and jersey number on the back during warm-ups.
The victory pushes the UNM record to 7-1-0 as the Lobos finish non-conference play. The team will begin Mountain Pacific Sports Federation play with one match next weekend. Coach Fishbein and company will travel east to take on the MPSF's newest member. Houston Baptist University will play host to the Lobos on Saturday, September 29th at 6 p.m. (MT).
Kyle Venter - New Mexico
Blake Smith - New Mexico
James Rogers - New Mexico
Matthew Gibbons - New Mexico
Mark Weigand - Denver
Josh Wren - Denver
Blair Jeralds - Denver
James Stevenson - Northern Illinois
Gael Rivera - Northern Illinois
Michael O'Keeffe - Fairfield
Reco McClaren - Fairfield
Tournament Champions: New Mexico
Offensive MVP: Devon Sandoval
Defensive MVP: Victor Rodriguez