Like the frigid temperatures at Husky Soccer Field on Saturday night, the red-hot streak of the University of Washington went suddenly cold, as the Huskies fell 1-0 to the University of New Mexico in the Elite Eight of the NCAA Tournament, ending a magical run for UW just one step shy of the 2013 College Cup.
“It was a good, tight game,” UW Head Coach Jamie Clark said. It’s an NCAA Tournament game. It’s going to be tight margins to win games.”
In a match with Hermann Trophy semifinalists Taylor Peay for Washington and Kyle Venter for New Mexico anchoring the backline for both teams, scoring chances were always going to come at a premium.
However, the Lobos went on the offensive early, getting four shots away in the first seven minutes and taking seven shots before Darwin Jones got UW’s first attempt on goal in the 29th minute, missing wide on a low-angled shot up the left side.
Then Ben McKendry put the Lobos up 1-0 in the 37th minute, taking a pass from Oniel Fisher and putting it past Ryan Herman with a quick-strike shot.
Hindered by the frozen grass field at Husky Soccer Field, UW struggled to find its footing throughout the first half, while New Mexico’s coaching staff arranged for the team to have indoor shoes after a brief training session on the field on Friday night.
Most Husky players made the switch to flats at halftime and the difference was evident, as the second half saw much more balance between the two sides.
“In the first half we didn’t have the right footwear and that was a coaching mistake,” Clark said. “I’ve never played in it before and didn’t realize how much of a difference it would make. Then the game changed and all of a sudden we could play.”
Washington was outshot 10-1 in the first half, but continued to press for an equalizer, though, backed by a 2-1-2 record this season when trailing at any point in the game.
Mason Robertson and Cristian Roldan got shots in the opening minutes of the second half. Then in one five-minute stretch in the middle of the half, UW got four shots, forcing saves out of New Mexico goalkeeper Michael Lisch.
“We’ve had this belief that if do go down a goal that we were going to come right back because we’ve done it all season,” Peay said. “We would’ve loved to win, but all-in-all we’re happy with the season.”
The Huskies have good reason to be happy despite coming up short in the end. They finished the year with a 16-2-4 record as Pac-12 champions who reached the Elite Eight for the first time in school history.
New Mexico will meet Notre Dame at College Cup on Friday in Philadelphia. The winner of that match will meet the winner of the other semifinal match between Maryland and Virginia.