Welcome back Aggie fans. Our summer hiatus is officially over. The Aggie soccer team opens up the 2012-13 athletic season for New Mexico State today. The Aggies take on Boise State in Boise at 6:00 p.m. As has been the case with the Aggie soccer program over the course of the past three seasons today marks another historic milestone in the program's history. This year's team has the first true senior class in the program's history. Six of the seven seniors on this year's squad were part of the very first freshman class at New Mexico State. Elise Nordin, Courtney Irwin, Cassie De Leon, Yolanda McMillion, Vanessa Thomas and Lauren Cope have all been with the program from day one. Additionally, redshirt junior goal keepers Jessica Schutter and Mikaela Bitner were also part of that first freshman class. When we spoke with head coach Blair Quinn earlier this week he acknowledged that having a senior class for the first time in the program's history was a big deal. One other note on this year's group, defender Courtney Irwin is the only player in the program's history to have started every game which will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season (consider her the Cal Ripken of Aggie soccer).
This year's club enters the season with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. The squad was picked to finish eighth out of nine teams despite finishing last season in sixth and winning a conference tournament match (defeating Hawai'i and losing to Fresno State, two teams who are no longer in the WAC). We expect that chip along with the sense of urgency that will be created by the group of seniors who with every game will be one step closer to ending their careers, to fuel this year's team to a strong season. The team's primary goal this season is to win the WAC and we would not at all be surprised to see it happen.
Today's opponent Boise State is no stranger as they of course used to be in the WAC. Boise State now resides in the Mountain West and so it's been a couple of seasons since these two teams last met. The Broncos lose their top goal scorer from last season as well as their standout goal keeper Liz Ruiz.
The Aggies continue to make strides on the offensive side of the ball and it will be interesting to see how successful they can be against a young keeper for the Broncos.
Defensively the Aggies should continue to be strong. Last year the team posted seven shutouts last season behind a back line that includes Megan Hendler (the seventh member of the senior class), Vanessa Thomas, Courtney Irwin and Alexys Brownell (replacing Elise Nordin who has moved up into the midfield for her final season). The Aggie goal keeping will be a battle between Jessica Schutter and Mikaela Bitner. Neither one has had a tremendous amount of experience as Bitner redshirted her freshman season while Schutter played in just two matches (playing behind then-senior Katie Graul). Schutter redshirted her sophomore year due to injury and Bitner split time in goal. Bitner redshirted last year due to injury and Schutter was injured for a majority of the season but then started late as Erin Wosick (no longer with the team) suffered an injury late in the season.
Both are capable goal keepers but it will certainly be up to the veteran back line to help out whoever is in goal.
A couple things to watch for in today's season opener -- How will the Aggies start the game? Last year to get out of the gate in several games which caused them to have to play catch-up late in games (which they did very well). Second thing to watch for is the Agges' offense. From the beginning of last season to the end of last season the Aggies made marked improvement offensively. They started connecting passes better and getting better chances. Coach Quinn noted that the offense has taken a big step forward during the spring and preseason camp and we're excited to see how they look.
Today's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff. Live Stats will be available via the Boise State athletic website.
The Boise State athletic website previews the season opener.
The NM State athletic website previews the opening weekend.
The WAC website previews the league's opening weekend.
Teddy Feinberg of the Las Cruces Sun-News talks about Idaho's impending move to the Big Sky.
Teddy also blogs about the Aggies' situation.
Brian Murphy of the Idaho Statesman reports on Idaho's impending moves.
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