In the first half of 2021, UNM Athletics pulled in six Mountain West titles. No Group of 5 school had more last year, and of those six titles, perhaps none were as dramatic as the one turned in by UNM’s women’s soccer team.
After being just four seconds away from a 2-1 victory over San Diego State in the championship game, the Aztecs scored the tying goal, sending the game to overtime, where Jadyn Edwards sent the Lobos to the title and the NCAA Tournament with a goal in the first extra session. Now, what do the Lobos do for an encore?
The start of that encore starts Monday night as the Lobos host Division II Fort Lewis in an exhibition game at the UNM Soccer Complex with kickoff slated for 7:30 pm. Admission is free, but in lieu of admission, the Lobos are hosting an APS School Supply Drive. Fans are asked to donate pencils, glue sticks, 24-count crayons, rulers, pink erasers, spiral notebooks, new socks, tissues and pocket folders.
Probably the biggest question heading into the season is how does UNM replace it’s top two goal scorers from the 2020 season (which was played in the spring of 2021). UNM lost both Gwen Maly (9 goals, 3 assists) and Alesia Garcia (9 goals, 4 assists) both that’s just 18 of the league leading 31 goals from last season. So while the Lobos lose the top two goal scorers, UNM returns every other goal scorer from 2020, including Cami Floth, Madi Hirschman and Jadyn Edwards, who all are primed to step into the major scoring threat role. It was Edwards that send UNM to the NCAA Tournament, and he knack of goals in big games should come in handy again.
Where UNM isn’t too worried about as far as replacing anyone is in goal, where Emily Johnson returns after a stellar 2020 in which she allowed just three goals in the regular season. Malia Vanisi, who jumped into the starting role in 2019 will again see plenty of time as UNM has the luxury of two of the top keepers in the Mountain West once again. The luxury of that is true freshman Alli Davis could be a top flight starter as well, and she is already showing in camp that she could be next in the line of great UNM keepers.
The Lobos have the pieces back with such experienced players as Alexa Kirton, Leilani Baker, Hirschman and Aspen Headrick all back for super senior seasons after starting all season in 2020 along with regular seasons Jaelyn Hendren, Mackenna Havenor and Karlee Maes. UNM also added senior transfer Molly Myers from Washington State to add to the veteran presence on the field, which should allow for many of UNM’s rookie class to get acclimated under their guidance, and UNM has plenty of freshmen talent. Eyes will certainly be on local products like Zaria Katesigwa, Shawna Williams, Taryn Robles and Willa Weise, but there are 10 freshmen in all that could all get on the field at some point over the rigors of the season.
UNM’s exhibition opponent, the Fort Lewis Skyhawks, went 4-2-3 in an abbreviated spring 2021 season, losing in the RMAC tournament in its opening game 1-0.