UNM women’s soccer coach Heather Dyche ends the second chapter of her stint with the Lobos tonight.
New Mexico (8-7-3, 4-5-1 Mountain West) closes the 2016 regular season at San Diego State (8-6-3, 6-1-3) with no hope of finishing high enough in the league to qualify for the six-team Mountain West Conference tournament.
Last season, in Dyche’s first year at UNM, the Lobos were the tournament’s No. 3 seed and fell on penalty kicks against San Jose State in the semifinals.
In any case, Dyche is happy with the progress her program is making.
“I really think we’re moving in the right direction,” Dyche said. “We keep the ball, we’re pretty organized in what we do. I think we’re really competitive against everyone, truthfully – even Cal (now ranked 18th) and Texas Tech this year.”
But don’t confuse that with satisfaction.
“I’m really pleased where we are, but I’m also competitive,” she said. “It’s a frustrating thing not to get all the wins you’d like to.”
Of UNM’s top eight point producers, five were underclassmen, including freshmen Gwen Maly and Jessie Hix.
The Lobos will lose seven seniors, including Maddie Irwin (four goals, 11 points), Katie Hinman (four points) and Olivia Ferrier (three points).
Dyche said it is that senior class that has set the stage for future progress.
“I have a lot of admiration for last year’s seniors,” the coach said. “They were kind of thrown into the fire. It’s your senior year and you have one year to adjust. That’s a difficult thing to do. And, I think, right or wrong, the direction of the staff was probably pretty different.
“This year, these seniors have really bought into the program and message that we’re sending.”
Dyche said she thinks there used to be a hierarchy – we’re the seniors, you’re the freshmen, and you do what we say.
“I don’t believe in that,” Dyche said. “I believe that if you’re on the team, you’re on the team. These seniors – we call them leaders by serving – have taught these young players that are coming in. This is how you hold yourself. This is the GPA that is expected. This is how we treat each other. This is the respect we give the community.
“And I think that will be their legacy. They will be the ones who made this a real family that you want to be a part of.”
To better build a program, Dyche would like to see a change in the way the college soccer season is run. There has been a suggestion that the NCAA change so that the sport covers the fall and spring – although the talk has been stronger among men’s programs than for women.
Currently, the sport has its championships in the fall with only a spring exhibition/practice season.
“It’s better for the players, it’s better for the staff,” Dyche said of extending the season into the spring. “Right now, we lose seven players. I don’t have them all spring when we’re coaching. I also don’t have next year’s freshmen. The freshmen who come in next year, they have two weeks to learn everything in preseason, then you go straight into your season. You never really get to coach when you have your full roster. I find it frustrating.
“And for the players, it’s not a good thing to play on a Friday and a Sunday. You’re exhausted. I feel like halfway through the season, it’s a battle of attrition. You’re just trying to keep people healthy. Whereas, if you had one game a weekend, you could really teach, you could really learn. I think it’s better physically. And they miss less school. I’m a big proponent.”
But that’s for another time. Today’s challenge is to try and find a way to beat a San Diego State team that sits third in the league standings and is trying to improve its tournament seeding. The Aztecs are on a six-match unbeaten streak.
But the Lobos did beat SDSU 2-1 in San Diego last season when current senior Ruth Bruciaga assisted on a goal.
UNM is coming off a 1-0 win at Colorado State. Junior goalkeeper Tayler Hammack leads the MWC with seven shutouts.