UNM’s Madi Hirschman, left, beats Jennifer McFadden of the Air Force to the ball during Sunday’s game. Hirschman scored both goals in the Lobos 2-1 win. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)
An unusually large class of fifth year New Mexico soccer players, some with an extra year of eligibility due to the coronavirus pandemic, polished a second undefeated home win at Mountain West on Sunday with a 2-1 win over the Air Force.
The Lobos (12-4-1, 7-2-1 MWC) took at least part of the Mountain West title in the regular season and secured the No. 1 seed for the MWC tournament.
“I really don’t know what else to say about this group of seniors,” said UNM trainer Heather Dyche. “You are unreal. This year unbeaten at home (in the conference). Most recently unbeaten at home (season). That is a special streak. I think people are scared to play here because they set a standard. I think that’s a legacy that goes on, that you can’t come to New Mexico and expect an easy game. Really, really proud of her, really proud that we were able to send her over here with an unbeaten weekend. Emotionally. They are good children. It’s hard to lose. “
Eight Redshirt seniors made their final home pitch, including local Eldorado alum Madi Hirschman, who was eliminated with a big hootenanny by scoring both goals.
“I couldn’t have asked for a better senior weekend,” she said. “This is my last game on my home court. I couldn’t have asked for anything better to get a win. “
It didn’t hurt to score twice either.
UNM striker Jadyn Edwards, left, attempts to bypass Hannah Johnson of the Air Force during Sunday’s competition at the UNM football stadium. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / magazine)
“I think I have to thank my team for that,” said Hirschman. “(Jadyn Edwards’) assist was perfect. I kept telling myself not to miss it. “
That result came in the 51st minute to give the Lobos a 2-0 lead. In the last minute of the first half, Hirschman coraled a loose ball on the short wing and bombarded the shot from about 30 yards against the far post.
“I push Madi a lot because I know how great she can be,” said Dyche. “I think sometimes she doesn’t even see it in herself. I think she can do it in every game. She’s so good on the ball and so technical and such a clean finisher and she’s fast. I think you see Madi develop a lot of confidence and I am excited to see that. This is how you want someone to finish their career the way they just did. It is very good.”
Air Force (6-9-2, 3-6-1) scrambled within goal five minutes from time when Tatiana Limon, the Albuquerque native and St. Pius alumyn, crossed the finish line after a scrum in the goalkeeping area after a corner kick.
But that couldn’t dampen the Lobos’ enthusiasm, said outgoing senior keeper Emily Johnson.
“It’s bittersweet,” she said. “A lot of career games have been played in this field and I’m just happy that we were able to take our last two wins. We will never forget these memories in this field, the (conference) championship in this field and I will keep these memories forever. “
Edwards, a senior citizen with a red shirt year left and planning to return to the Lobos to end her career, said there were unfinished deals for this season.
“It’s huge for us,” she said of Thursday’s regular season finale in San Diego state, a team the Lobos defeated in the Conference championship game earlier this year. “We still control our own destiny, that’s great. They’ll want to beat us for sure and we’ll have to beat them in the end to win, so it’s going to be a great game but fun overall. I am happy about it and I am confident in my team that we will make it. “
NOTE: Following the game, Alexa Kirton, midfielder in her fifth year of age, was honored with the match ball for breaking the program record with 83 games.
“I think I mention Alexa every time someone doesn’t because she’s just the heart of our engine,” Dyche said. “She doesn’t stop. And she cares so much. She’s also an incredibly good footballer. Your feet are so clean. I think there will be a committee of people trying to fill in their footsteps. What she brought into this program is truly irreplaceable. Alexa wants our team to win and she could really take care of everything else. She does what it takes to achieve that. “
UNM’s Alexa Kirton picks up the cue ball after receiving it from Coach Heather Dyche after beating the Air Force. Kirton was awarded 83 for breaking the program record of games played. (Adolphe Pierre-Louis / Journal)