It’s Crunch Time for Aztecs This Weekend

by Staff

As San Diego State mens’ soccer winds down its season, winning hasnever been more important. SDSU has just three games left inconference play and all are critical if the team has any hope ofgetting a good seedin the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation Championship Tournament.

“We’ve put ourselves in the position to win the conference,” headcoach Lev Kirshner said. “We’ve already played (first-place) AirForce so we have to give these games our all and hope that theyfalter down the line.”

SDSU is currently in second place in the conference and mustmaintain that position from here on out. The Aztecs face UNLV (2-2-0)tomorrow at 4 p.m.

The Rebels, who went 2-0 at the beginning of conference play,truly lived up to their name in their 3-2 loss against Denver. Intotal, three UNLV players were given red cards and ejected from thegame for getting into a fist fight. Those three players didn’t playagainst Air Force last week and the Rebels promptly suffered anembarrassing 5-0 blowout.

With two horrible losses in a row, the team’s confidence level islikely down in the dumps. Only time will tell. Before the two losses,the Rebels were playing good soccer and assuredly their talent is notgone.

Their biggest offensive threat is Alex Hernandez, who has alreadybeen honored as the MPSF Brine Player of the Week once this season.The award was prompted when he had his first collegiate hat trick ina 6-1 upset over No. 5 and defending national champion, Connecticut.He currently leads the team with seven goals, four of which have beengame-winning, and has 14 points.

Backing him up on offense is Kelly Frederick, who has five goals,three assists and 13 points.

Justin Dennis will probably start the game in goal. He is 4-3 andhas one shutout in 635 minutes of action.

New Mexico, who is probably not having the greatest season, comesto town to face the Aztecs Sunday. They have yet to win a game inconference play and are currently in last place. Statistically, theLobos have been outscored 27 to 15 and have been shut out six timesthis season.

Although they lack a strong offense, they do have a couple ofindividual standouts that the Aztecs should not overlook. Seniorforward Ty Hibbert leads the team with five goals and 11 shots ongoal. Junior midfielder Junro Narita currently has the best team shotpercentage having scored 4 goals on 24 shots.

New Mexico’s inexperience in the net could give the Aztecs agolden opportunity to pick up a win. Freshman Andrew Weber hasallowed 24 goals so far this season in 13 games.

Both UNLV and New Mexico are teams that SDSU can compete with. Thekey for the Aztecs, as it has been throughout the season, is defense.

“We have to organize the defense and hopefully that will allow ouroffensive talents a chance to win the game,” Kirshner said.

Travis Baker, Brian Barnes, Drew Picone and Anthony Zoric have allbeen sidelined with injuries for this weekend’s games, which meansthe role of the freshmen coming off the bench will be very important.Thus far, they have done a good job of filling in for the injuredplayers.

“Four and five freshmen are coming in and doing a fantastic job,”Kirshner said. “Our whole team is playing very well.”

These games will play a large part in the future of the 2001Aztecs; a loss in either could jeopardize the chance at a good seedin the championships.