University of New Mexico women’s soccer coach Heather Dyche isn’t easing into anything during her first year at the helm.
The Lobo coach announced an 18-game schedule for the 2015 season that arguably is as challenging as the program has ever faced.
“Generally, you can look at non-conference scheduling two ways,” Dyche said. “You can schedule to try to build confidence by getting a bunch of wins or you can really challenge yourselves. With our veteran-laden team, I thought it would be of more value to play against really high-level competition.”
The season officially begins with the Lobo Invitational on Aug. 21 and Aug. 23. Up first for the Lobos is a visit from the 2014 defending national champion Florida State Seminoles.
Florida State – Dyche’s alma mater – finished 24-1-1 last season and defeated Virginia 1-0 in the championship game of the Women’s College Cup.
UNM’s second game in the invitational will be against Texas Tech, which finished No. 14 in the final NSCAA rankings last season and advanced to the third round of the NCAA Tournament. The Red Raiders were 16-4-2 in 2014. Southern California (12-6-3), which played in the NCAA Tournament last year, also is in the invitational but won’t play the Lobos.
The Lobos have road games at Big 12 member Colorado, which had a 14-7-1 record last season and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament, and Big Ten members Minnesota (11-9-1 in 2014) and Michigan State (9-9-1).
Games against in-state rival New Mexico State and Big Sky Tournament finalist Idaho State round out the non-conference portion of the schedule.
“We want to test ourselves against the best so that we go into conference play as prepared as we can be,” Dyche said.
The Lobos will play host to Mountain West champion San Diego State (15-5-2 in 2014) in the regular-season finale on Oct. 30.
The Lobos lost only one senior from a 2014 squad that went 10-6-2 and finished in third place in the Mountain West. UNM, which went 9-3-2 in its last 14 games, lost in the semifinals of the Mountain West Tournament to Wyoming 2-1 in overtime.
They just capped their spring season with Sunday’s 2-0 exhibition win at UTEP. Claire Lynch scored off a rebound from a shot by Alyssa Coonrod that hit the post, and Brooke Webster added the team’s second goal. Cassie Ulrich, Laura DeMers and Morgan Devine held the Miners scoreless in goal as UNM concluded the spring with four exhibition-match winning streak.
“The spring was a feeling-out process for us,” Dyche said. “But by the end of it, we had a much better sense of player personalities. They got a better sense of their roles and responsibilities and we came out of it feeling much more comfortable challenging ourselves with our schedule in the fall.”