By Albert Luna
New Mexico State University had a lot to celebrate on a day that was marked with an L in the win-loss column. The Aggies were able to break an all-time attendance record with 2,005 fans in attendance for the highly anticipated matchup with rival UNM on August 26.
Though the game was moved from Aggie Memorial Stadium to the Soccer Complex, because the former field was not sufficient under NCAA rules, the crowd’s enthusiasm was not dampened in the least.
The Aggies entered the game with a 0-1 mark after losing a thrilling double-overtime game to Eastern Washington, score 2-1, on Sunday, August 23. New Mexico came into the Wednesday matchup looking for their first win, after going toe-to-toe with two top 15 nationally ranked teams (#15 Texas Tech, 0-1 and #1 Florida State, 1-3), respectively.
The Aggies, which are a young yet talented team with 17 freshman, had a hard time establishing a middle ground and were unable to make up for an early second half goal by forward Madisyn Olguin of UNM.
Head coach Freddy Delgado believed the Aggies weren’t necessarily beaten, as much as they beat themselves.
“We gave them (UNM) most of the chances that they had,” he says. “We didn’t look to play the ball forward, we played the ball backwards.”
The Lobos were on the attack most of the afternoon, making the Aggies earn every trip into their defensive territory. As a result, the Aggies were only able to muster together three shots at the goal, compared to more than five times the amount by the Lobo’s (16 in all).
The Aggies, which were 0-5 all-time against UNM heading into the game, were also held to zero kicks from the corner, as compared to UNM’s seven such kicks. The game, despite the stats, was pretty even through the first half of play, with both teams displaying exceptional defense in the area that really matters: the box.
Starting goalkeeper and NMSU freshman Rian Nials had an outstanding first half of play, with an impressive four saves in the half.
“I thought for as young as she is, she did very well, being able to step on a big stage,” Delgado says of his goalkeeper. “She’s gaining confidence each game.”
The Aggies head coach also praised his backline for allowing UNM not to challenge his team upfront.
NMSU was unable to capitalize on some key sequences throughout the half, including a free kick that was just right by freshman defenseman Dominique Rivera late in the first period. The neck and neck battle took a turn in the first few minutes of the second half when the Lobos scored their lone goal at the 43:46 mark.
The Aggies only managed to get one more shot at the goal for the remainder of the game.
One undertone that cannot be emphasized enough was the crowd today. Freshman midfielder Rebecca Mazzie says she was impressed by the turnout of the crowd.
“Knowing that we made history and I was able to be a part of it was an awesome feeling,” she says.
Going forward, Delgado says he would like see more effort from his team.
“Mentally, we have some hurdles to overcome such as dealing with the big moment,” he says.
However, the coach also admits that the high level of non-conference competition is ultimately going to be healthy for his team.
“We have very high expectations for this team (NMSU) this year,” he says. “They are a very strong-willed and talented team. I was still proud of how we played today all in all”.
Mazzie says she’s excited for the team’s direction saying it is a process and it’s going to take a bit of time.
“We have things that we can work on and progress as a team,” she says. “I think we’ll be okay”.
The Aggies may not have received the score they wanted from the game, but it is safe to say that given the attendance, and the optimism of the team, the women’s soccer team should be poised for a good run this year.
The women next take the home field Friday, September 4, at 4 p.m. versus Weber State.