Local fans take Lobo soccer loss in stride

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This was soccer, not basketball. The New Mexico Lobos were playing Notre Dame, not Harvard.

Besides, the UNM men’s soccer team had already reached a stage of an NCAA Tournament that the men’s basketball team can only dream about.

So, as the Lobos fell to the Irish 2-0 Friday in an NCAA semifinal in Philadelphia, the crowd at Fox and Hound Bar & Grill on Jefferson NE took it in stride.

In fact, it appeared only about half the customers in the nearly packed establishment were watching the game – though all 16 TV sets in Fox and Hound’s downstairs rooms were tuned to the ESPNU telecast.

Afterward, the reaction was muted.

Andrez Leyva is a former Belen Eagles soccer player and was a sophomore defender this fall at Trinidad (Colo.) State College. He and Leia Zagone, a former Sandia volleyball player and now a Trinidad outside hitter, had just come home from Colorado on Christmas break.

Leyva was rooting hard for the Lobos – in particular junior defender Riley McGovern, against whom he played in high school. McGovern is a former Farmington Scorpion. But, after the final seconds had ticked off the clock, Leyva was philosophical.

“I’m pretty disappointed,” he said. “… I thought they were gonna go to the championship (game) but that’s soccer.”

Some 10 feet away from Leyva and Zagone’s table, Jim Keohane watched the game at the bar with the practiced eye of a soccer referee with 25 years of experience.

Losing to Notre Dame in the national semifinals, Keohane said, is nothing to be ashamed of. The Fighting Irish play soccer in the Atlantic Coast Conference, the strongest men’s league in the nation. Maryland and Virginia, who played in Friday’s second semifinal, are also ACC members.

“It was a good run by the Lobos, a good season,” Keohane said. “You’re playing the ACC, what do you expect?”

Still, the Fox and Hound patrons might have expected a few more fireworks than the Lobos were able to provide.

The Lobos were competitive with the Irish in most statistical categories – shots on goal, total shots, corner kicks – but not in the one set of numbers that really counts.

With about 12 minutes left in the game, and with the Lobos trailing by the eventual final margin, one of the ESPNU broadcasters said the Irish were “dominating every facet of this game.”

Leyva could not disagree.

“Yeah, I think (the Irish) were better in terms of 50-50 balls, pressure. They were working harder. They looked like they wanted it more.”

Keohane felt the Lobos never really recovered from the first goal of the game, scored by Notre Dame’s Patrick Hodan just seven minutes into the contest.

“We took it to them the first five or six minutes,” Keohane said. “We had the possession; we had the chances. Then they scored that goal, and it kind of changed the whole game.”

Hodan added a second goal at the 65-minute mark. The Lobos, who had come back from a two-goal deficit to beat Alabama-Birmingham this season, never really threatened to rally Friday.

“Not against this kind of competition,” Keohane said. “The ACC is what it is in college soccer.”

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