Lobos breaks ‘Dogs home winning streak. But are still No. 1 in the Mountain West

Fresno State midfielder Sam Tristan attacks forward against Nevada on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Fresno State Soccer Stadium. (Melina Kazanjian/ The Collegian)

The Fresno State women’s soccer team lost its first home game since October 2019, falling 2-1 to Mountain West rivals New Mexico on Sunday.

The ‘Dogs had occupied first place in the conference after their overtime win over San Diego State on Thursday, but now the battle between the Lobos and the Bulldogs continues. Both are tied for first place with 16 points in the conference.

A penalty kick in the second half, courtesy of New Mexico’s Jadyn Edwards, lit the Lobos fire after a steady first half from both teams. That goal was answered 10 minutes later with a score from Fresno State forward, Kaelyn Miller. Then with 15 minutes left of the game and the score even, Lobo Alexa Kirton shot the ball past the ‘Dogs’ keeper to the bottom left of the net, finishing the scoring at 2-1. 

The clock began and play started with heavy pressure being applied by the Lobos. 

Tension was running high for the ‘Dogs as they looked to keep their name at the top of the leaderboard in the conference. Following their overtime win against San Diego State on Thursday, the ‘Dogs responded to the Lobos pressure with confident attacking as the ball was played end-to-end continually. 

At 13 minutes, a yellow card was given to Edwards. Using this hesitation to the ‘Dogs advantage, Fresno State senior Jordan Brown saw an opportunity and took a shot, but the ball struck the near post in the 15th minute. 

The ball continued to bounce between the Lobos and the ‘Dogs, with neither team capitalizing on any pass to take it into their box. With eight minutes to go in the first half, Bulldog Julia Hardwick attempted a fiesty tackle on the right-wing, which left her with an injured ankle and her being substituted off. A free kick was awarded to Lobo Madi Hirschman. 

“I think we started kind of slow. New Mexico is a really good team, and they’re really organized,” Fresno State head coach Brian Zwaschka said. “I think we were tired from our overtime on Thursday which didn’t help.”

With it being anyone’s game in the second half and various substitutions in place for both teams, the Bulldogs came up with a few differences.

“Overall in the first half, we had little things we needed to fix, and in the second half I think we did that,” Miller said. 

But the Lobos saw no problem with the adjustments from Fresno State as a challenge from Bulldog senior Robyn McCarthy led to a Lobos penalty kick. Edwards stepped up to the mark and ultimately fired the ball past Bulldog Ella Wilson’s waving hands into the bottom left corner. The Lobos took the lead at 62 minutes, 1-0. 

Despite the goal, the ‘Dogs never stopped fighting. They understood New Mexico wanted the No. 1 spot to itself.

“We were ready to compete. We were ready to fight. We knew it was going to be a battle and we’ll fight all the way, even if we’re down a goal,” Miller said.

Fresno State defender Haley Espinoza guards the ball against Nevada on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Fresno State Soccer Stadium. (Melina Kazanjian/ The Collegian)

After a stoppage in time due to Kirton’s ankle injury in a tackle, the Bulldogs came out firing with a shot on target by McCarthy. The ball was caught by the Lobos goalkeeper. 

After a New Mexico foul against Hirschman in the 58th minute, the Bulldogs’ channeled this momentum into a free kick awarded to junior Chais Wright.

The free-kick was played and soon the ball was back in the midfield. A header from Brown launched the ball into the final third, which Miller sought to possess. The problem was that Miller had a Lobo defender on either side of her as all three players sprinted for the ball. 

Miller got possession, chipped the ball over the goalkeeper’s head and into the top right corner of the net. 

“It felt really good to score that goal. As a team, we tend to get back up on top,” Miller said. 

With the score now even and with 28 minutes to play, both teams were on the attack as they sought out a weakness in the other. The Lobos seized an opportunity and hit the ball hard and low past the Bulldog defenders and goalkeeper to the right corner of the goal. However, this goal was disallowed due to a foul in the box on a Fresno State player, and the fight continued.

But it did not last much longer as a corner kick in the 73rd minute from New Mexico’s Mackenna Havenor led to an opportunity for her teammate Kirton after a Fresno State defender deflected the ball out of the box. Kirton had no defenders marking her, so she used the time to set herself with a small touch, and then struck a half volley into the top left corner of the Bulldogs’ goal. 

Fatigue influenced the ‘Dogs performance, Zwaschka said. 

“In the final few moments, I think we just had a lack of energy. We were getting beaten to a lot of balls – losing first balls and we were losing second balls,” Zwaschka added. “It’s probably an energy and a timing issue.”

The final few minutes were filled with the Lobos deflecting a lot of balls in order to waste time and clinch the win over the ‘Dogs. The ‘Dogs look to bounce back as they face Nevada on Friday, Oct. 17.

“We’re going to concentrate on recovery right now and try and win it on Friday,” Zwaschka said. 

“I’m ready to keep winning and, hopefully, get back on top. Now that we’re tied with New Mexico, their games are not in our hands. But all we have to do is win,” Miller said.

Previous Story Smith and Sukhov lead the 'Dogs in sweep against the Wolfpack article thumbnail mt-3

Smith and Sukhov lead the 'Dogs in sweep against the Wolfpack

Next Story Fresno State defense locks down Wyoming in shutout victory article thumbnail mt-3

Fresno State defense locks down Wyoming in shutout victory