Women’s soccer loses in heartbreak to New Mexico 3-2, Lobos win Mountain West Final

San+Diego+State+women%27s+soccer+junior+forward+Anna+Toohey+attempts+to+work+her+way+around+Fresno+State+defenders+during+the+Aztecs%27+2-1+win+over+Fresno+State+on+March+27%2C+2021+at+the+SDSU+Sports+Deck.

Devin Whatley

San Diego State women’s soccer junior forward Anna Toohey attempts to work her way around Fresno State defenders during the Aztecs’ 2-1 win over Fresno State on March 27, 2021 at the SDSU Sports Deck.

by Devin Whatley, Arts & Culture Editor

There’s a common saying that sports bring “the thrill of victory and the agony of defeat.”

At the UNM Soccer Complex in Albuquerque, the Mountain West Conference Final had all of it and then some.

After a game-tying goal with four seconds left in regulation, San Diego State women’s soccer (8-3) lost 3-2 in overtime to the University of New Mexico Lobos (10-1), denying them the Mountain West Conference title and ending their regular season. 

In the 95th minute, UNM was able to get a ball on a crossing pattern inside the penalty box. Freshman goalkeeper Alexa Madueno was able to deflect it out but was forced off of her line. The ball then found the feet of Lobos junior forward Jadyn Edwards, who knocked it in and punched New Mexico’s ticket to the NCAA Tournament.

The game was initially labeled by conference officials as a “cross-divisional match,” but the quality of play on the field from both teams was equivalent to a high-octane prize fight.

To start, SDSU brought out some high-pressure attacking tactics, which overwhelmed the Lobos in the early minutes of the game. 

By running the tactic, the hope is to create quick goal-scoring opportunities, and the Aztecs got one to strike first. 

In the 16th minute, sophomore forward Rachelle Elve tried to fire in a crossing pass junior forward Anna Toohey, who was matched up with a Lobos defender inside the penalty area.

The newly-minted Mountain West Newcomer of the Year was able to get UNM senior goalkeeper Emily Johnson off her line, and Toohey struck the ball in for a goal, giving SDSU an early 1-0 lead. 

Five minutes later in the 21st minute, Lobos junior forward Alesia Garcia kicked the ball that knocked right into Madueno’s hands. However, she was unable to properly secure it, and UNM junior midfielder Cami Floth zipped in a shot for the game-tying goal. 

In the 36th minute, the Lobos would strike again as Garcia was able to fire a pass across to Edwards for her first goal on the night, giving UNM a 2-1 lead it would take into halftime.

What was causing the lack of scoring for SDSU? Look no further than at three key areas – shots, possession and defense.

UNM held a 10-6 advantage over the Aztecs in shots. Those six shots in the first half for SDSU were one of their lowest shot totals on the season. 

The Lobos also controlled most of the possession towards the latter part of the first half, thanks in part to their ability to keep the ball on the final third of SDSU’s side of the field.

Defensively, the Lobos were not being challenged much as their offense kept the ball along the Aztecs’ final third of the field for a latter part of the first half. However, when the Aztecs did have opportunities, UNM swarmed SDSU with a “triangle” approach on defense – having multiple players back and applying pressure to deny angles.

One positive for the Aztecs on the backline was the defensive performance of senior defender Sarah Broacha, who had multiple deflections and clear-outs against UNM senior forward Gwen Maly and Garcia. Those plays prevented the Lobos from adding additional insurance goals in the game.

In the second half, the Aztecs would go scoreless for the next 44 minutes trying to find that game-tying goal. 

By having the ball within the final third of SDSU’s side – the Lobos made it hard for the Scarlet and Black to convert some offensive opportunities.

But, like head coach Mike Friesen has said previously, the Aztecs have taken up the motto as “road warriors” and finally cashed in on an opportunity in the 89th minute.

In sequence, Broacha cleared the ball out to find Frisch in the final third of UNM’s side of the field. Frisch was able to force an SDSU corner kick opportunity with 12 seconds left on the clock.

As the time kept ticking, Toohey fired a ball in between the UNM defense and right past Johnson’s reach for the equalizer. After looking like the offense was stuck in a desert, “Toohey Time” came through once again for the Aztecs, tying the game and sending it to overtime.

In overtime, SDSU had a chance to take the lead, as Frisch earned a free kick opportunity inside of the 18-(yard line. As she lined up, the Lobos packed the goal and penalty box. Frisch fired a shot, but it ended up being just a bit wide. Then, after Edwards’ goal in the 95th minute to win it, UNM students and fans stormed the field in celebration.

In the end, SDSU was able to have a 6-4 advantage in the second half over the Lobos in shots, but it was not enough as UNM finished with 14 shots to the Aztecs’ 11. Madueno matched Johnson in saves, with each of them having five total. 

In one of the most unorthodox seasons in program history – where a fall season was postponed, phased workouts were prevalent and players received routine COVID-19 testing multiple times per week – the Aztecs finished just short of another Mountain West title and trip to the NCAA Tournament.

The program heads into next season with many unknowns – will the seniors return for an extra year? Who transfers in? What does the freshman class look like? These questions will have answers as time goes on.

For now though, the team finishes another winning season, capped off with the West Division crown.

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