The New Mexico men’s and women’s soccer teams will start at the top.
The UNM men open the 2015 season against preseason No. 1 UCLA on Aug. 29 in Los Angeles.
The women Lobos begin their campaign against defending NCAA champion and preseason No. 1 Florida State at home on Aug. 21. UNM’s first-year coach Heather Dyche is a Florida State alum and was team captain for the Seminoles in 2001.
Jeremy Fishbein is entering his 14th season as New Mexico’s coach and is coming off one of his more disappointing years.
UNM was ranked fifth in the 2014 preseason poll, but faltered to an 11-6-1 record and missed the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2008. The Lobos received votes but are not ranked in the 2015 preseason poll.
“It’s a kick in the stomach,” Fishbein said. “Last year, we had the players. We didn’t get the results we should have. That’s something, as a coach, you have to be really critical, do a lot of evaluation. We’ve got to be better. We’re a very different team this year. We’ve got a lot of new faces. Guys will play new roles. Our strength is we’re unified, maybe not as many distractions. We’ll have to win collectively.”
As for paying a visit to the top-ranked Bruins, Fishbein isn’t thinking about it.
“That doesn’t do us any good,” the coach said. “We haven’t seen these guys practice yet. There’s a lot ahead of us. But I believe in these guys. We will be successful.”
OFFSEASON HONORS: The talents of UNM junior midfielders Chris Wehan and Niko Hansen have been recognized.
Wehan is one of 30 players on the watch list for the Mac Hermann Trophy. He had 10 goals and 22 points last season and in 40 career games has 13 goals (four game-winners) and 29 points.
“He’s just continued to grow as a player, as a leader, as a teammate,” Fishbein said of Wehan. “First of all, there’s his work ethic, the kind of person he is. He is a real caring person from a great family.”
Meanwhile, Hansen this week is in training camp with the U.S. men’s national U23 team in Carson, Calif. He is one of 28 collegians to get the invitation.
“It’s well deserved,” Fishbein said of Hansen. “He’s handling it well in that it’s not going to get away from him. He’s really focused this year.
“Both these guys really put the team goals first.”
EXHIBITIONS: The UNM men will play home exhibitions against Air Force (Aug. 15) and Grand Canyon (Aug. 19), both at 7 p.m. They also have an exhibition at Denver on Aug. 22.
The Lobo women host Fort Lewis in an exhibition on Aug. 17 at 7 p.m.
RANKINGS: Besides UCLA, the Lobo men face two other ranked preseason teams – both in Conference USA. UNM goes to No. 24 Old Dominion on Oct. 10 and hosts No. 17 Charlotte on Oct. 27. UNM was picked second in the preseason C-USA poll, behind Charlotte.
ACADEMICS: The UNM men posted a team grade point average of 3.5 last year.
The Lobo women had a league-high 16 players named Mountain West Conference scholar athletes for 2014-15.