The University of New Mexico’s magical women’s soccer season has come to an end. The Lobos had a 1-0 halftime lead on No. 4 seed TCU dissolve into a 6-2 loss in Friday’s second round of the NCAA Tournament in Wilson, N.C.
Goals scored just a minute apart early in the second half by the Horned Frogs’ Messiah Bright and Grace Collins put UNM in a hole it could not recover from. More than that, the shots were, in Lobos coach Heather Dyche’s opinion, done at a “world class” level.
“Like, those goals are unsavable and undefendable,” she said. “They’re just really, really special players doing special things.”
UNM’s season ended with a 10-2-1 record and a Mountain West Conference championship. The Lobos’ win over Navy earlier this week was the program’s first in the NCAA Tournament and the team’s body of work sets the bar for future teams at the school.
“This isn’t going to be a one-off,” Dyche said. “This is where our program belongs. This is where we strive to be every year and players we have are capable of doing that.”
Alesia Garcia put the Lobos in front in the 28th minute, scoring off an assist from Jadyn Edwards. Garcia scored again in the 79th minute, but her two goals bookended six unanswered scoring plays by the Horned Frogs. All of TCU’s goals came in a dizzying 32-minute span where things got away from New Mexico.
“It was hard to have them all back to back, but I think our team stayed really connected and stayed together even though we did face that adversity,” said UNM senior Gwen Maly.
TCU’s roster includes half a dozen players who have played on the U.S. national team at various age levels. That kind of talent, Dyche said, was the difference.
“I think we all knew going into it we were pretty outmatched,” she said. “Player for player, they [TCU] are a really special team.”
Friday’s loss certainly isn’t the end for New Mexico. With the start of training camp for the fall season just three months away, the Lobos return all but a couple players while adding several new recruits.
Dyche said the experience of laying the foundation for things to come is the most exciting thing about this week’s appearance in the NCAA Tournament.
“It’s awesome that we set history this year but it’s not something where we want to go, ‘hey that was a good year and now we’re done,’ ” Dyche said. “This is where I feel New Mexico should be every year, this is the expectation.”