The University of New Mexico men’s soccer team can only look to today’s appointed match with Old Dominion near the waters of Norfolk in the Commonwealth of Virginia.
Beyond that is uncertainty.
“It doesn’t do you any good expending energy on anything outside the result of (today’s) game,” is how Lobo coach Jeremy Fishbein put it.
The UNM-Old Dominion match comes in the first round of the Conference USA tournament. The fifth-seeded Lobos, 11-5-1 and ranked 22nd in the country, were the preseason choice to successfully defend their regular-season conference title. But they fell to 4-4-0 in C-USA play and have put their NCAA Tournament prospects in jeopardy.
“We’ve played really well, but we haven’t played complete matches,” Fishbein said. “We’ve had little lapses that have hurt us.”
Conference USA has five teams with an NCAA RPI of 39 or higher – Charlotte (3), Kentucky (25), UAB (26), New Mexico (30) and Old Dominion (39). Is there room for all five in the 48-team NCAA field?
A win against Old Dominion (9-6-1) might get UNM in.
The Lobos defeated the fourth-seeded Monarchs 4-0 in Albuquerque on Oct. 25, with sophomore midfielder Chris Wehan scoring two goals.
“I think the game at our place isn’t a really fair assessment of Old Dominion,” Fishbein said. “They’re a good team. They do things very well and they’re playing at home. It will be a challenging match. That’s what you want. I know we’re going to put a really good team out there.”
Wehan and junior midfielder Ben McKendry were named first-team all-conference, while senior defenders Mathew Gibbons and Nick Miele, and senior forward James Rogers are on the second team.
Today, UNM has opted to use freshman Jason Beaulieu at goalkeeper over senior Patrick Poblete.
“He’s doing well,” Fishbein said of Beaulieu. “I think he gives us the best chance to win.”
The winner of today’s match faces No. 1 seed Charlotte on Friday at 5 p.m. The championship is Saturday at noon and will be televised by Fox Sports Network.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty,” Fishbein said. “We take away that uncertainty with a win for sure.”