Lobo Classics: 2010 UNM Women’s Soccer team makes history
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. – In the second installment of “Lobo Classics” we are going to take a look back at the historic 2010 season for the UNM women’s soccer program. That year ended up seeing the Lobos capture their first Mountain West Regular Season title, and despite not claiming the MW Tournament crown, the Lobos also earned an at-large berth to the NCAA Tournament; a program first.
The 2010 season for the women’s soccer team was their chance to prove that they truly were building something and were to be a force to contend with not only in the Mountain West, nationally. The year prior, the Lobos won 13 games and finished fourth in the MW with a 4-3-0 record. The 13 wins marked the first time since 2002, the second season under then head coach Kit Vela, that the Lobos would reach double-digits in wins.
Entering that 2010 season, expectations and optimism were high surrounding the program as they were returning a pair of All-MW players in Jennifer Williams and Amanda Collins. Williams, a first-team selection in 2009, was coming off a sophomore season in which the forward totaled 27 points thanks to 10 goals and seven assists. Collins registered just one assist in 2009, but her overall play in the midfield garnered second-team honors.
In addition to Williams and Collins, the Lobos were also getting the return services of goalkeeper Kelli Cornell. As a redshirt freshman, Cornell was dominant in goal for the Lobos. She would go on to register a single-season record of 13 shutouts that year while posting another single-season record for goals against average (GAA), 0.69.
The returning combo of potent offense and stifling defense in the form of Williams and Cornell would go on to be formula for success for the Lobos in a major way in 2010. In fact, Williams went on to be named the MW Offensive Player of the Year while Cornell was named the MW Defensive Player of the Year. (*Spoiler Alert* – both players repeated those honors the following year in 2011!)
Beginning that season, the Lobos opened up to a dominant 2-0-0 start with a 7-0 win against Montana and a 3-0 win over Nebraska, both at home on opening weekend. That momentum carried over the next weekend as the Lobos took part in the Milwaukee Cup. There, the Lobos took on host school Wisconsin-Milwaukee and No. 23-ranked Marquette. Both of those games went to at least overtime and the Lobos emerged from the weekend 1-0-1. The victory was a big one as the Lobos beat nationally-ranked Marquette 1-0. The game-winning goal was scored by Williams in the 97th minute.
The next four games saw the Lobos go into a bit of an offensive lull as they scored only two goals. Despite that scoring lull, Cornell and rest of the Lobo defense remained tough and allowed only two goals themselves during that stretch. The Lobos ended up going 1-1-2 during that time to bring their season record to 4-1-3.
Following those four games, the Lobos hit the road for one final non-conference weekend as they took part in a tournament hosted by the University of Montana. In that tournament, the Lobos got back on track with a pair of wins against North Dakota (2-0) and Boise State (1-0).
That momentum carried over right into MW play as the Lobos raced out to a 3-0-0 league record with convincing wins over UNLV (4-0), San Diego State (2-1) and Utah (3-0). That quick start to conference play setup a colossal matchup at home with rival and MW powerhouse, BYU.
Even though there were still three more conference games on the schedule following the game with BYU, the October 16 meeting for all intents and purposes was going to be for the MW regular season championship.
Heading into that game, BYU was ranked as high as No. 8 nationally and carried a 12-1-1 overall record and a 3-0-0 mark in MW play. The Lobos were not far off that at 9-1-3 overall and 3-0-0 in conference play. The Lobos were also nationally-ranked for the first time in program history checking in at No. 25 in the preceding Soccer America poll.
Despite the seemingly even matchup of a pair of nationally-ranked teams heading into the game, the Lobos were battling negative history as they were just 3-14-2 all-time against BYU. In fact, the last win for the Lobos against the Cougars came in 2005. In the time since their last win against BYU and the game in 2010, the Lobos were 0-3-2 and were outscored 7-2.
Fortunately for the Lobos, past history would not play a factor in that game; rather their current history-building prevailed. Playing in front of a boisterous crowd of just over 2,000 fans at the UNM Soccer Complex, the Lobos battled the Cougars to a scoreless regulation. Through those first 90 minutes, the Lobos out-shot the Cougars 17-12. Eight of those shots were on goal, but each were denied from reaching the back of the net.
The two teams then played a scoreless first overtime period sending the heavyweight battle to a second OT. Just three minutes into the second overtime period, the Lobos ended the game as senior Kate Wyrick found the back of the net off an assist by Williams.
The thrilling win over the Cougars vaulted the Lobos to No. 17 in the Soccer America poll and left the Lobos as the lone remaining unbeaten team in the MW and atop the standings at 4-0-0. While the win was critical at the moment for their aspirations of winning the MW regular season, the Lobos now had to focus on continuing that path on the road as the game with BYU, while only their sixth home game of the season, was their final game at home.
The first road test down the stretch came at Air Force where the Lobos emerged with a 1-0 win in double overtime to push their conference record to 5-0-0. The double OT trend continued over their final two games as the Lobos played to 1-1 ties at Wyoming and at TCU.
The tie at Wyoming secured at least a share of the MW regular season championship and also locked in the Lobos as the top seed in the MW Tournament. After their tie with Wyoming, the Lobos had 16 points in conference play and needed that point they got at TCU to secure the regular season outright. In doing so, the Lobos claimed their first conference championship in school history.
With the regular season title in hand, the Lobos turned their attention toward the MW Tournament and a likely rematch with BYU. A 2-1 win for the Lobos in double overtime against UNLV in the semi-finals of the tournament indeed set the stage for a highly-anticipated rematch against the Cougars. While the regular season meeting was essentially for the regular season championship at the time, there was no doubt that the rematch was for the tournament title and the league’s automatic bid into the NCAA Tournament.
In another nationally-ranked clash, the Lobos and Cougars played the first half scoreless. In the 63rd minute of the match, however, BYU broke the scoreless tie with a goal just out of the reach of Cornell. The Lobos would have a chance at the equalizer later in the half, but the shot by Zaneta Wyne hit the crossbar. The Lobos would not be able to put home the tying goal and BYU emerged with the victory, 1-0.
Despite the heart-breaking loss in the MW title game that would have assured the Lobos a berth into the NCAA Tournament, the Lobos body of work throughout the season positioned them in great shape for an at-large bid.
So, just two days after the MW title game, the Lobos gathered for the NCAA Selection Show expecting to hear their names called. And that’s exactly what happened. As the bracket field was coming together, it was announced that New Mexico Lobos would be heading to South Bend, Indiana as an at-large team to take on the No. 7-ranked Notre Dame Fighting Irish.
The draw of Notre Dame in the first round ended up being an unlucky one for the Lobos as the Irish eventually went on to win the National Championship that season. Despite that first round loss, their at-large bid to the NCAA Tournament to mark the first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance in school history was an amazing accomplishment for a team that achieved so much in 2010.
As mentioned prior, the Lobos racked up on MW individual awards with Jennifer Williams being named MW Offensive Player of the Year, Kelli Cornell being named MW Defensive Player of the Year and head coach Kit Vela being named the MW Coach of the Year.
The 2010 Lobos also went undefeated at home with a record of 6-0-0, their defense ranked fourth nationally in goals against average (0.507) and surrendered just 11 goals in 21 games while also allowing multiple goals in a game just once. The Lobos also put together a program record unbeaten streak of 10 games that stretched from September 17 – November 4. Individually, Cornell ranked in the top-10 in the country in both goals against average (8th; 0.519) and save percentage (7th; 0.885).
About Lobo Classics
The goal of the “Lobo Classics” series is to highlight some of the greatest moments in the history of UNM Athletics. These types of moments can consist of specific games, individual performances, record-breaking achievements or even entire championship seasons. It is our intention that during this period of uncertainty, we can bring some joy and happiness to our unwaveringly loyal fans that make up Lobo Nation!
As part of this endeavor, Lobo Athletics wants to make this an interactive project and are opening up for suggestions from Lobo fans everywhere. Fans can make suggestions that they would like to see highlighted in “Lobo Classics” by tweeting to @UNMLobos and using the hashtag #LoboClassics. Fans can also submit suggestions through email: firstname.lastname@example.org.