A pair of go-ahead goals by Claire Lynch lifted New Mexico to a 4-2 victory over the Colorado State women’s soccer team on Friday afternoon at the UNM Soccer Complex in Albuquerque.
Defense has placed the Lobos in second place in the Mountain West standings, but it didn’t take long into Friday’s match for the home team to prove that their offense was equally as impressive.
With howling winds to their back, New Mexico broke out of the gates on Sunday attacking the CSU net. Less than a minute into the game, UNM already drew a corner kick and struck a post with their first shot. The game was still in its early stages, but it was clear that defending UNM in the windy conditions would pose a challenge for the Rams.
“It was just a really challenging soccer match in challenging conditions against a team that was able to play their style today,” CSU head coach Bill Hempen said in a statement.
CSU goalie Hunter Peifer made her first of four saves on a shot from Lynch in the sixth minute. However, the Lobos’ leading scorer buried her next chance on a header set up by Qunicy Slora in the 21st minute.
Down a goal and lacking offensive momentum, the Rams got themselves back into Friday’s game by capitalizing on their specialty: corner kicks. Last weekend, the Rams executed their set pieces to go ahead against Boise State and to put away Utah State.
In the 22nd minute versus UNM, Makenzi Taylor delivered a cross to defender Halley Havlicek in the penalty area. Havlicek worked the ball to Caeley Lordemann who one-timed a shot to the back of the net for her third goal of the season.
The Lobos peppered Peifer and the CSU backline with a total of 15 shots in the first half, but the 1-1 score held through the break.
The second half began much like the first half, as UNM’s relentless offensive pressure drew five corner kicks in the first 10 minutes. The Rams weathered the early pressure, but ran into trouble in the 71st minute when a Rams defender couldn’t clear a UNM turnover and committed a foul deep in the CSU zone. The Lobos called on Lynch to take the ensuing free kick and the senior midfielder delivered a world-class strike from 20 yards out to the top left corner of the net for a 2-1 lead.
Minutes later, the Lobos took advantage of another CSU foul to make the Rams’ deficit two. This time from near the half-line, the free kick found its way to the CSU penalty area where Aspen Headrick delivered the game-winning goal from about ten yards out.
The Lobos scored their first three goals using their head and feet, but proved hands could be just as beneficial in the 79th minute. All afternoon, Lobos’ defender Jessica Nelson used an acrobatic front flip throw-in technique to launch balls across the pitch. On a throw-in directly in front of the UNM bench, the junior sprung into her flip and rocketed the ball over the head of an oncoming Peifer and into the CSU net for a 4-1 lead. The game looked out of reach on the scoreboard, but not to the players on the pitch.
“We never gave in,” Hempen said. “Even when we were down 4-1, we didn’t give in.”
The speedy Karlie Eheart didn’t let the three-goal deficit slow her down and linked up with Janelle Stone on a cross in the penalty area. Stone directed the Eheart pass to the far post for the captain’s first goal of the season.
“We were pushing forwards and even thought we could get our third goal,” Hempen said
Desperation ensued for the final five minutes, but the Lobos remained stout to take home the 4-2 victory.
The Rams head out to San Diego for the penultimate game of the season at 2 p.m. on Sunday versus the Aztecs.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.