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UNM men’s soccer: Lobos developing in spring season

Through the January chill and April warmup, the UNM men’s soccer team has looked toward August and the heat of the 2017 college season.

The Lobos play a home exhibition match on Saturday against Colorado Mines. The spring season ends with a game at Denver University next week.

“It depends on how you evaluate it,” UNM coach Jeremy Fishbein said when asked how the training has gone. “It’s been really good in terms of individual development and challenging guys.”

The Lobos, who won the Conference USA tournament and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament last season, have a number of critical players to replace. Niko Hansen, an important part of the offense in all four of his years at UNM, is now contributing to the MLS’ Columbus Crew as a rookie. Chris Wehan, on the Hermann Trophy watch list in his time as a Lobo, and Patrick Khouri are also playing pro soccer.

UNM signed four players in February, but none will join the team until August. A couple more will be added to the roster before August.

Meanwhile, Paul Souders, who had served as Fishbein’s assistant for nine seasons and was an integral part of the team’s preparations, has left. He is now an assistant at Central Florida.

Kelly Altman, a 2001 Albuquerque Academy graduate and an assistant at Valparaiso for four seasons, was named to the UNM staff on Thursday.

“He’s very passionate about being here,” Fishbein said.

The Lobos have a 2-1 win over Grand Canyon and 2-1 losses to Air Force and SMU this spring. But exhibitions are not the same as games.

“It’s a young group,” Fishbein said. “There are ups and downs. It’s a real mental challenge. A lot of weeks of training without outside competition. That’s the carrot — playing games. It’s different. Guys want to play. … As it gets near the end, the guys are mentally and physically drained. But it makes them a lot better when they come back in August.”

One Lobo taking advantage of the exhibition season is goalkeeper Ford Parker of Sandia. He made a name for himself as the ‘keeper off the bench in penalty kick wins in the C-USA and NCAA tournaments last year. But he got his first taste as a 90-minute collegiate player during last week’s loss at Air Force.

“He gained a lot from that game,” Fishbein said.

Midfielder Devin Boyce, who had eight starts in 21 games last year as a freshman, had UNM’s lone goal against Air Force — a penalty kick. Forward Luke Lawrence had the scores in the win at Grand Canyon.

“Our goal from Jan. 16 to April 29 is to prepare us for our season opener,” Fishbein said. “This block of time, it is all preparation for August.”

ACADEMICS: Goalkeeper Jason Beaulieu, defender-midfielder Gabriel Camera, and midfielders Matt Dorsey and Simon Spangenberg were awarded the C-USA Commissioner’s Academic Medal. It is given to athletes who earn a 3.75 cumulative grade point average. The Lobos also had 20 players on the commissioner’s honor roll, with GPAs of 3.0 or better.

UNM WOMEN: The Lobos close their spring schedule at Arizona on Saturday and at UTEP on Sunday.