Aggie Soccer Hangs Tough At UNM; Loses 1-0

Mikaela BitnerThe Aggie soccer team took on their in-state rival New Mexico on Friday night in Albuquerque. It was the first ever meeting between the two programs and the Aggies hung tough with the Lobos before falling 1-0.

While not thrilled with the loss, head coach Michael Needham was very pleased with his team's effort and what he saw from his team on the pitch Friday night. "I think it was a positive performance for us," said Coach Needham. "We did a great job of defending, our back four really came together and played very well and our goal keeper did a fantastic job. All-in-all, not a bad performance."

Aggie goal keeper Mikaela Bitner recorded six saves against a New Mexico squad that fired 21 shots including seven shots on goal. The lone score came off the foot of Rachel Fields in the 59th minute of the match. "They commit a lot of numbers forward, it was a free kick, we got the first clearance, we didn't get it quite wide enough, the kid ended up getting ahold of it," said Coach Needham. "Their kid did a nice job to beat one of our players and got into the box, anytime you shoot a ball in traffic it's real tough. You can't fault our goalkeeper for that. Our goal keeper was huge today."

The Aggies nearly scored in the 20th minute of the match when a corner kick by Mary Kate Koziol found Baili Foutz who headed the ball towards the goal. Foutz's shot hit the crossbar keeping the match tied 0-0.

The Aggies were only able to get six shots on the night, two in the first half and four in the second half. "I felt that we could have done better on the attacking side of the ball," said Coach Needham. "I thought we panicked a little bit under that kind of pressure but in stretches we did a good job, we've just got to put together 90 minutes and be able to relax." He added, "It's just a matter of these guys realizing how good they are."

One of the players who impressed Coach Needham was freshman Dani De La Vina. "Offensively I think one of the bright spots today was Dani De La Vina. She was very good, she was able to hold the ball for us and she did some really good things up top," said Coach Needham. "She got to the end line a couple times and I think she built up some confidence tonight playing against some good players. That was really good."

"I think rivalry games are always going to be 1-0 or 2-1 or whatever because everybody's wound up," said Coach Needham. "I thought they were wound up in the first half, they sprayed balls all over the place and weren't as effective as they could have been." He added, "I thought in the second half they were very dangerous and they caused a lot of problems for us because they settled down and started to play the way they wanted to play and we did the same thing."

Being just a second year program, rivalry matches are something new to the Aggie soccer team, however, the Aggies have played the matches as though they've been playing them for years. The Aggies have gone on the road to hostile environments for both inaugural meetings between the Aggies and their rivals and both matches have ended in 1-0 results when most would have expected a lopsided loss for the Aggies. "I think rivalry games are always going to be close, that result 1-0 against a team that is very good, that's a team that just beat a team that's in the Top 25 and got votes to be in the Top 25 themselves and we're the new kids on the block," said Coach Needham. "Tonight I saw the old Aggie team show up. The team we had last year, a bunch of battlers and fighters, kids that were going to do what it takes to either tie or win a game."

"All-in-all I'm very proud of these kids and I was really happy to see that work ethic and that grind we had last year come out tonight."

The Aggies return to action on Sunday afternoon when they take on Northern Arizona. The Lumberjacks are 0-2-1 after tough one goal losses to Arizona State (4-3) and UTEP (1-0) and a disappointing 1-1 tie against Arizona in which they gave up the tying goal in the 89th minute.