The Daily Aggie :: 09/04/12

It's another busy week for New Mexico State athletics. Football is taking on the Ohio Bobcats in Athens, OH, volleyball heads to Fort Collins to take on Colorado State, Pepperdine and Florida International, soccer finally christens their home stadium on Friday when they take on Sam Houston State. Cross Country and men's golf are also in action this weekend.

First though we'd like to offer our best wishes to our good friend Kyle Doperalski. For those of you who do not follow Aggie women's sports, Kyle has been the radio and television play-by-play man for the past several seasons and has really infused the broadcasts with his knowledge and genuine excitement for the women's sports (and for those who have followed the women's basketball program during that time know that it hasn't always been easy to get excited). Kyle broadcast his final game for the Aggies this past Saturday as the Aggie volleyball team fell to Northwestern 3-1.

Kyle has accepted an Associate Athletic Director position at North Dakota and he will be in charge of External Operations. It's a tremendous opportunity for Kyle and his family and we cannot think of a more deserving person than him. He is hands down one of the hardest working people that you will ever meet. If you've ever walked by his broadcast location at the Pan Am and seen his prep sheets, you know what we're talking about. If we put half as much effort into preparing for an exam in college as he does prepping for a single game, we'd have graduated with honors (but that's another story for another time).

On a personal note, Kyle is a great person and a great friend and he'll be sorely missed on Aggie volleyball, women's basketball, soccer and softball (and occasional football and men's hoops) broadcasts as well as on the NM State Sports Weekly show and New Mexico State's loss is certainly North Dakota's gain.

Now that we've put away the Kleenex boxes and dried our eyes, it's time to get back to business. The Aggie football team has a gargantuan task ahead of them this week as they face an Ohio club that is fresh off a monumental defeat of Penn State in Happy Valley. Certainly the strength of Penn State's team was diminished by the offseason transfers following the NCAA's sanctions, however, it's not like Penn State is a bottom of the barrel club.

The fact is that Ohio is just a better team and nearly every college football expert agrees with that statement. Bobcat QB Tyler Tettleton was named the MAC's Offensive Player of the Week after going 31-of-41 for 324 yards. The Bobcats also ran for 172 yards as a team. The Aggie defense has their work cut out for them, particularly with Tettleton's ability to pull the ball down and run.

The good news for the Aggies is that they've seen Tettleton and the Bobcat offense before in last season's opener so they should know how to gameplan for Ohio. The question will be whether they can successfully execute said gameplan.

Offensively the Aggie passing attack is better (at least on paper) than Penn State's and the Aggies should have some success through the air. Where the Aggies must drastically improve is on the ground. They've got to get the ground game going early. They won't be able to rely as much on the big plays as they did against the physically under-matched secondary of Sacramento State.

The Aggies also need to put together some sustained drives, even if those drives end up in a punt. The Aggies had just one drive, the final drive, that lasted more than six plays. The Aggies need to be able to put together a few eight to ten play drives that chew up the clock.

One thing that might play into the Aggies' favor this week is that they might be able to catch Ohio coming off a high. The Bobcats may underestimate the Aggies just a little bit especially considering that they pretty much handled the Aggies in last season's meeting.

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The Daily Aggie :: 09/01/12

The Aggie volleyball team picked up another impressive victory last night opening the La Quinta Invitational with a 3-1 victory over Cincinnati. After dropping the first set 25-17 the Aggies gutted out a 25-23 victory where they trailed 23-22 but scored the final three points to take the win. They also rallied from a 13-9 deficit in the third set to go on to win 25-18 and then they absolutely crushed the Bearcats in set four winning 25-7. The Aggies finished the match on an incredible 16-1 run and at one point scored 14 points in a row after leading 9-6.

The Aggies return to action today when they host Drake at 12:30 p.m. (MDT) and Northwestern at 7:00 p.m. (MDT). Both matches will be aired on KSNM AM 570 and streamed online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

The Aggie soccer team picked up a tie against UC Riverside on Friday night getting a late goal from Layla Todd, the first goal of the season, to force overtime. Neither team scored in the first or second overtimes giving the Aggies the tie.

The Aggies take on Southern Utah on Sunday morning as they try to pick up their first victory of the season.

The Daily Aggie :: 08/31/12

It's the first full weekend of Aggie sports with all of the fall sports teams in action. The Aggie football team opened the 2012 schedule with a 49-19 victory over Sacramento State. There were some good things and some not so good things from last night's victory. We'll start with the good. First, it's a win and as Aggie fans know, you can't really argue with a 'W'.

Second, Andrew Manley and the wide receiving group looked outstanding. Yes it came against an FCS secondary, however, as we pointed out yesterday three of the players in the rotation were former BCS conference players who transferred to Sacramento State. Austin Franklin looks to be poised for perhaps a record-setting season. He finished the game with eight catches for 236 yards and two touchdowns. He caught touchdown passes of 84 and 52 yards. Jerrel Brown also looked good, he's a player that Teddy Feinberg from the Sun-News has been all over during the offseason camp and he did not disappoint. He caught two passes for 59 yards but one of the two receptions was a 50 yard touchdown pass.

Andrew Manley looked like the Andrew Manley we saw against Minnesota last year. Good decision making (save for one throw in the fourth quarter deep in their own end on a third down), he looked comfortable in the pocket and he showed tremendous patience even during the times when the pocket collapsed on him, he stayed in and made throws.

Punter Cayle Chapman-Brown gave the Aggies a very strong performance. He punted six times and averaged 50.5 yards per punt. That's a huge, huge advantage over last year when the team averaged 39.4 yards per punt. Field position is key in football and if Chapman-Brown punts like that all season it will no doubt pay off for the Aggies.

Trashaun Nixon, Davis Cazares, Bryan Bonilla and Donte Savage were the stars on defense. Nixon was literally everywhere and finished with a game-high 15 tackles, six of them solo and two of them for a loss. Bonilla had 11 tackles and delivered the hit of the game when he introduced Sac State quarterback Garrett Safron to the Aggie Memorial Stadium turf late in the second quarter. Cazares also heard his named called a lot. He finished with 10 tackles. Donte Savage's return to the field was also successful. Savage blocked an extra point and forced a fumble. Both were big plays in the game. The blocked extra point kept the game from becoming a one possession affair (28-19 versus 28-20) and his forced fumble effectively sealed the game as the Aggies would score a touchdown four plays later to go up 42-19.

Despite the good there were some disappointments in the game. The defensive secondary got burned, a lot. Safron threw for 308 yards and two touchdowns and the Hornets found something in the Aggies' defense midway through the second quarter and exploited it for much of the next quarter and a half. The Aggie secondary will need to get much better in a hurry as they'll face an Ohio quarterback in Tyler Tettleton who threw for over 3300 yards and ran for 916.

The Aggie offensive line was good in pass protection for the entire first half giving but started to break down a little in the second half. Where the offensive line was not good was in the run game. Yes, the Aggies finished with just over 100 yards rushing and yes the Aggies did score four touchdowns on the ground, however, the ground game was nearly non-existent for much of the game. As Andrew Manley aptly stated in the postgame press conference, the Aggies simply cannot throw the ball on every down. There has to be an effective run game and with the competition level about to jump several notches it has to be a major concern.

The middle of the game was not great for the Aggie defense who played well for most of the first half and all of the fourth quarter. However, they simply could not stop Sacramento State late in the second quarter through the start of the fourth quarter. The Hornets erased a 25-point deficit and cut it to nine. At the end of the day the Aggie defense did respond and forced three turnovers late to put the game on ice but that middle stretch is a bit concerning.

All-in-all a win is a win and beating an FCS team is much better than losing to an FCS team (just ask Idaho and Middle Tennessee).

The Aggie volleyball team opens up their home slate tonight at 7:00 p.m. (MDT) as they take on the Cincinnati Bearcats as part of the Aggies' home tournament. The Aggies will face also Drake and Northwestern but tonight's match might be the marquee match of the tournament (with the Aggies' match against Northwestern and the Cincinnati/Northwestern matches coming in a close second).

The Aggies looked dominant at times during last week's tournament at Northern Illinois but they also looked vulnerable at times losing a couple of sets during the weekend by wide margins and also needing massive comebacks in two other sets.

It should be an outstanding tournament and we're looking forward to seeing the Aggies continue to build on their first weekend success.

Tonight's match will not be aired on the radio, however, both matches tomorrow night are scheduled to be on KSNM AM 570 (and streamed online via Aggie Access -- subscription required).

The Aggie soccer team is back in action as they're in Riverside, Calif. for a tournament hosted by UC-Riverside. The Aggies will face UC-Riverside and Southern Utah this weekend. The Aggies are 0-2-0 on the young season and are still searching for their first goal of the season. The Aggies have nearly two weeks off since their last game and have no doubt been working hard on their pace and also on their shotmaking.

We feel that it's important for the team to pick up at least one victory this weekend from a confidence standpoint. This is a team that felt slighted for being picked eighth in the WAC preseason coaches poll but as it stands right now they are just one of two teams in the WAC without a victory so far this season and they most certainly don't want to end their second weekend of competition winless.

Live Stats will be available for tonight's match against the Highlander and the match is scheduled to kick off at 8:00 p.m (MDT)

The Aggie cross country teams kick off their 2012 season in Albuquerque this weekend at the Lobo Invitational. The Aggie men and women are looking to build off their strong 2011 season where they both finished in second place at the WAC Championship meet. The Aggie men are seeking their first cross country conference championship while the women will be looking to return to the top of the podium where they stood in 2010. Individually on the women's side Courtney Schultz begins her quest for a fourth consecutive individual WAC title but will be pushed hard by her sister Camille and Idaho's Hannah Kiser.

The Lobo Invitational will be run on Saturday and will be run under the lights for the first time in the meet's history.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/30/12

It's Time. Literally. It's time. It's finally game day. The 2012 season is upon us and we're ready. The Aggies host FCS foe Sacramento State tonight at 6:00 p.m. (MDT). The quest to end the 52 year long bowl drought begins. Although Sacramento State is an FCS opponent, they are not a team to be taken lightly. Yes, the Hornets had just four wins last year but two of those wins are comparable to two of the victories the Aggies had last season. Sac St. defeated Oregon State in Corvallis 29-28 in overtime drawing similarities to the Aggies' 28-21 victory over Minnesota in Minneapolis. The Hornets also defeated FCS perennial power Montana, a victory that we would liken to the Aggies' victory over Fresno State.

The Hornets break in a brand new backfield this year which in some respects is similar to the situation the Aggies find themselves in with Matt Christian and Kenny Turner having moved on. Andrew Manley was last year's unquestioned starter until an ACL injury suffered in the waning moments against UTEP ended his season. He's back and again he is the unquestioned starter for the Aggie offense. The run game should be featured a little bit more this year as Coach Walker has stated publicly many times that he hopes to be able to run downhill, particularly in short yardage situations. We'll be interested to see just how the Aggies fare (and what the play calling will be) the first time the Aggies are faced with a third and one, third and two or third and three. Will they line up and try to gain the first down on the ground or will they choose to go to the air?

We're also very interested to see Andrew Manley in his first live action against an opposing team's defense. Make no mistake, Sacrament State knows Manley is coming off an ACL injury and while there won't be malicious intent to any of their hits, they will no doubt try to hurry, chase, knock down or sack him as often as possible to try to rattle him.

The Hornets play a 4-2-5 defense and there is some good depth for Sacramento State in the defensive backfield with three players in the rotation who are Division I, BCS conference transfers. Ryan McMahon (USC), Dijon Washington (Nebraska) and Christopher Lopes (UConn) should all see playing time to day for the Hornets.

On the Aggie defensive side of the ball we're definitely looking forward to seeing Donte Savage back on the field. After sitting out last season due to academic ineligibility, we've heard all offseason how good Savage has looked and we cannot wait to see him turned loose on opposing quarterbacks.

We are also very interested in seeing the new Aggie secondary. The Aggies' secondary was the strongest position group on the team last year on defense but there is nary a single returning starter from that group last year. We expect Sacramento State to test them early and often (and in particular Jeremy Harris who, let's just say, did not fare well last year when he was in one-on-one coverage).

We encourage you to check out this week's podcast to get more thoughts on the game from us, Kyle Doperalski and Teddy Feinberg.

One question we posed to both Kyle and Teddy on the podcast was this: Do you think the Aggies need to win convincingly tonight (i.e. a blowout, three to four touchdown margin)? On one hand every coach will tell you that it doesn't matter whether you win by one or you win by 100 that a win is a win and that is certainly true. However, at the same time, we'd really like think that in year four, despite graduating a bunch of good players (including some NFL players), that the Aggies should still be head and shoulders better than Sacramento State and given all the talk about whether both New Mexico State and Idaho should drop down to FCS-level football any chance to "flex their FBS muscles" so to speak should be taken. At the very least the Aggies need to quiet the outsiders talk of New Mexico State needing to drop down to FCS football (and by outsiders we're specifically referring to outside media and/or fans from rival teams or even fans from other teams in the FBS ranks) but that's just our opinion. So that being said, we'd really like to see a thorough victory one in which you never feel like Sacramento State is "in the game" from a competitive standpoint (ala last year's UNM game, even though the final margin was closer than the game actually was).

Tonight's kickoff is scheduled for 6:00 p.m. (MDT) and can be seen on AggieVision and streaming online via ESPN3. Radio coverage will be available on the Aggie Sports Network and also streaming online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/27/12

With the Aggie volleyball team's two victories on Saturday the team improved to 3-0 on the young season. The Aggies defeated both North Dakota State and Northern Illinois by 3-1 margins and won the NIU Invitational. For the Aggies it's their first 3-0 start since the 2009 season and it's perhaps the most impressive 3-0 start in terms of quality of opponent that the Aggies have had under head coach Mike Jordan which is saying a lot.

All-in-all it was just about as perfect a start to a season that any coach could ask for. The Aggies faced adversity, had some weaknesses exposed but in the end they persevered and came away with three victories.

Next up for the volleyball team it's a home tournament beginning on Friday. The Aggies will take on Cincinnati, Drake and Northwestern and have a couple more opportunities for great RPI boosting victories. Last season Cincinnati finished 20th in the RPI, Northwestern was 78th while Drake was 195th but plays in a very, very good volleyball league, the Missouri Valley Conference (where recent Aggie victim Wichita State plays).

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/25/12

The Aggie volleyball team picked up a victory in their season opener defeating a very good Wichita State team 3-1 on Friday night. It's one of the best wins for the Aggies in a while (probably since defeating Colorado State in Fort Collins at the end of the 2010 season). As we noted in yesterday's post there were a few questions to be answered for the Aggies and at least after yesterday's match the answers were good answers. The Aggies got very solid play from their setters Ciara Brown and Taylor Livoti. The Aggies ran the 6-2 offense and did so effectively. Brown notched 26 assists while freshman Livoti recorded the only double-double in the match with 20 assists and 10 digs.

We also talked about the floor defense and the Aggies, though susceptible to the setter dump by WSU's very tall and very offensive-minded setter Chelsey Feekin (nine kills), the Aggies' floor defense was as solid as we've seen it in a couple years. The Aggies covered a lot of balls and they tracked down a lot of balls that in the past couple of season would not have been tracked down and kept a few rallies going.

Finally the front row attackers were as good as advertised. Meredith Hays picked up right where she left off last season. She had a match-high 20 kills and a very impressive .357 hitting percentage. Preslie Alexander had an impressive debut finishing with 11 kills on 24 swings, Lauren Loerch finished with seven kills, Desiree Scott had one of her best matches as an Aggie so far finishing with 10 kills and just one attack error and Bradley Nash's return was a successful one. She finished with seven kills but it was her serving that was a huge, huge, huge boost for the Aggies. Nash featured a topspin jump serve that at times was devastating and Coach Jordan noted that without that, they may not have won the match. It's also important to note that Nash developed this jump serve over the course of the last week. The Aggies won 14 points in the match while Nash was serving and just twice did WSU side out on Nash's first serve. Nash was also on serve during the Aggies' critical six-point run that helped them draw even after trailing 20-14 in set four.

The Aggies get two more chances today to pick up quality victories. They take the floor against North Dakota State at 11:00 a.m. (MDT) and then again at 6:00 p.m. (MDT) when they take on tournament host Northern Illinois. Both matches will be broadcast on KSNM AM 570 with audio streamed online via Aggie Access (subscription required).

NDSU and NIU went the distance in their match last night as NIU jumped out to a 2-0 lead in the match winning sets one and two 25-23 and 27-25 before the Bison rallied for decisive 25-18 and 25-20 victories to tie the match at 2-2. The Huskies won set five 15-10 jumping out quickly to an 8-4, 10-5 and 12-6 lead.

Players to keep an eye on for tray against the Aggies are NDSU's Brynn Joki who had 14 kills (but 10 attack errors) and Andrea Henning who finished with 22 digs. For NIU the Aggies will keep tabs on Meghan Romo (17 kills but 14 attack errors) and Mackenzie Roddy (18 kills, 8 attack errors). The Huskies also had five different players with double-digit digs.

Both matches today should be very competitive matches and it appears that all four teams in the tournament are playing at a fairly high level for the first weekend of play.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/24/12

The Aggie volleyball team kicks off the 2012 campaign tonight when they face Wichita State in the opening game of the NIU Invitational. First serve is scheduled for 4:00 p.m. (MDT) and the match can be heard on KSNM AM 570 in Las Cruces and online via Aggie Access.

The 2012 season holds much promise for the Aggies and with WAC bully Hawai'i gone from the league (having left for the "greener pastures" of the Big West) the WAC appears to be a four or five team race with the Aggies figuring to be the prohibitive favorite at least on paper.

If you read this week's interview with head coach Mike Jordan you're aware that the Aggies have scheduled a little differently this non-conference and have set themselves up with a chance play themselves into an at-large bid before conference play begins. It's similar to what Aggie baseball was able to do this past season in that the schedule is packed with strong RPI teams that will win a lot of games and in turn that will help the Aggies' own RPI stay in that at-large range (usually in the 25 to 45 range). Now obviously the Aggies need to take care of their part of the RPI equation and that is win a few of those matches in the non-conference (much like the Aggies were able to do early on) and just like we saw with the Aggie baseball team, if the volleyball team can notch a few good RPI wins in the non-conference, the losses during non-conference play and even a couple losses during conference play won't hurt them nearly as bad.

So today that quest for a return trip to the NCAA tournament, a place the Aggies have not been for three years (a veritable drought by the high Aggie volleyball standards we've been accustomed to). Things to watch for in today's match. First and foremost is the setter position. The Aggies are looking for solid play from the group of three setters that they have, two newcomers (VCU transfer Ciara Brown and freshman Taylor Livoti) and a sophomore returnee (Maggi Jo Keffury) who saw little action last year. Can this group get the powerful Aggie hitters the ball?

Second, the floor defense. The Aggies must also replace libero Kelsi Phillips who graduated. The Aggies believe they have plays who can make plays on defense at the libero and defensive specialist position.

Third, the front row. The Aggies are absolutely loaded with powerful arms led by sophomore Meredith Hays. Bradley Nash is back from the ACL injury that derailed a promising start from her last year. The Aggies have a transfer from Cal in Lauren Loerch who should be a lot of fun to watch and the Aggies also have three intriguing players in the middle in junior Desiree Scott whom the Aggie coaching staff is looking to really start playing up to her potential, sophomore Gwen Murphy whose athleticism is off the charts and then there's junior college transfer Preslie Alexander (whose name we've heard repeatedly but admittedly know very little about except that there's always a bit of excitement when her name is brought up).

It should be an incredibly fun and exciting season, one that will hopefully culminate with a return trip to the NCAAs, and it all begins today at 4:00 p.m.

Live Stats will also be available for the match.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/21/12

The Aggie volleyball team kicks off their 2012 campaign this weekend when they travel to DeKalb, Ill to take on a very tough field in the Northern Illinois Invitational. Aggie play-by-play man Kyle Doperalski pointed out that the opening weekend is a tough one for the Aggies with three of the four teams participating (Northern Illinois, North Dakota State and Wichita State who is receiving votes in the AVCA's Top 25 preseason poll) having made the NCAA Tournament last season. In fact, the Aggies are the outsider in the group. Next weekend's home tournament doesn't get any easier with Northwestern, Cincinnati (receiving votes) and Drake coming to town and weekend number three will likely represent the toughest teams the Aggies will face all season when they head to Fort Collins for the Colorado State tournament where they'll take on host No. 25 Colorado State, No. 11 Pepperdine and Florida International.

As is always the case every season the Aggies' success will hinge on their ability to pass the ball well on serve receive and play strong defense (both blocking and floor defense). This year unlike years past the Aggies have some question marks at setter. The Aggies have had an embarrassment of riches at the setter position over the past decade-plus with Morgan Reeder, Jackie Choi, Alyssa Gintant and of course four-time AVCA All-American Jennah DeVries. The Aggies are absolutely loaded with arms this year across the board. WAC Preseason Player of the Year Meredith Hays is back, Bradley Nash is back from an ACL injury that ended her season prematurely last year, the Aggies have also added Cal transfer Lauren Loerch and in the middle is preseason All-WAC middle blocker Desiree Scott.

The Aggies have plenty of options offensively the question will be can they find a setter who can get them the ball. We'll find out over the course of the next three weekends before the Aggies enter WAC play.

WAC Commissioner Jeff Hurd announced (to no one's surprise, in fact he pretty much stated the fact at the WAC football media day) that the WAC will be dropping football (at least for 2013) after this season. Idaho already anticipated the move and made their intentions for playing football independently known last week. The Aggies, reacting to the news from Hurd yesterday, stated that they have also been making preparations to play football independently for 2013. As has been noted by both Jason Groves and Teddy Feinberg we know that the Aggies have at least four confirmed games (at Texas, at UCLA, at UNM and home vs. UTEP) plus an "agreement" to play Idaho twice (once in Las Cruces, once in Moscow). That's a total of six games out of the 12 needed for a full schedule. Dr. Boston stated to the Sun-News that the Aggies have agreements for between nine and 12 games. While we don't know who those other six teams might be, we do know that at least three of the games will need to be in Las Cruces. It's probably a safe bet that at least one of those games will be against an FCS opponent (and there could even be two games against FCS teams, it was done twice during the Hal Mumme era when the team played SE Louisiana and Texas Southern in 2006 and SE Louisiana and Arkansas-Pine Bluff in 2007).

The big question mark is, will the Aggies be able to survive financially as an athletic department for two years of independence (and what will the books look like at the end of those two years). Consider that there will be no conference bowl payouts (unless the Aggies make a bowl game) and there may not even be any BCS payouts (we're not sure how the payouts are handled with regards to Independent teams). It's also safe to assume that the WAC will lose its television contracts for all sports (with just three schools remaining assuming Idaho leaves for the Big Sky).

Then there's the question of whether the Aggies can command high six-figure payouts for "body bag games" as they have in the past. The Aggies received somewhere in the neighborhood of $925K to play at Georgia last year and they're likely getting good money for their game at Texas (which was inked several years ago) but the Aggies have now lost all leverage. They NEED games and those big schools know it. What's to prevent those big-time BCS schools (and even middle tier BCS schools) from offering the Aggies a "take-it-or-leave-it" amount that is half (or even less) than what they've been paying out previously? Perhaps those middle-tier BCS schools will start offering to just pay travel expenses.

We already know that the BCS schools hate supporting the "little guys" (hence the fight over sharing BCS monies, allowing the little guys to even play in the BCS games, etc) so you can be damn sure that these schools aren't going to feel sorry for New Mexico State and cut a million-dollar check for a football game when they know they can probably squeeze the Aggies for a cheaper game.

It's likely that fellow mid-major schools aren't (even now) paying out large amounts of money for home-and-home games (i.e. the Ohio series which concludes this year). So the question of financial solvency for the athletic department is a major, major concern (particularly since athletic budgets at New Mexico State are already at a bare minimum). These issues are not just pertinent to New Mexico State either. We're sure that Idaho is facing the same issues (and they're in an even harder to get to place in Moscow).

It will be interesting to see how this all unfolds over the course of the next few months.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/19/12

The Aggie soccer team is back in action as they face Idaho State in Boise as part of the Boise State tournament. The Aggies are looking to get in the win column early this season. The Bengals from Idaho State are 1-0-0 on the season coming off a 3-2 overtime victory over North Dakota State. ISU's Rachel Strawn scored two goals in the match including the golden goal in overtime. The Aggies are still searching for their first score of the season.

The Bengals played 21 different players and two different goal keepers in their win on Friday and it will be interesting to see the strategy in this second game of the season.

From the looks of things the Aggies were able to get a few good looks at the goal in Friday's game against the Broncos it'll just be a matter of doing the same in this game against Idaho State. The Bengals are a very physical team so the Aggies will need to be able to play through that today.

Today's game is scheduled for an 11:30 a.m. (MDT) kickoff with Live Stats available via the Boise State athletic website.

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The Daily Aggie :: 08/17/12

Welcome back Aggie fans. Our summer hiatus is officially over. The Aggie soccer team opens up the 2012-13 athletic season for New Mexico State today. The Aggies take on Boise State in Boise at 6:00 p.m. As has been the case with the Aggie soccer program over the course of the past three seasons today marks another historic milestone in the program's history. This year's team has the first true senior class in the program's history. Six of the seven seniors on this year's squad were part of the very first freshman class at New Mexico State. Elise Nordin, Courtney Irwin, Cassie De Leon, Yolanda McMillion, Vanessa Thomas and Lauren Cope have all been with the program from day one. Additionally, redshirt junior goal keepers Jessica Schutter and Mikaela Bitner were also part of that first freshman class. When we spoke with head coach Blair Quinn earlier this week he acknowledged that having a senior class for the first time in the program's history was a big deal. One other note on this year's group, defender Courtney Irwin is the only player in the program's history to have started every game which will be something to keep an eye on throughout the season (consider her the Cal Ripken of Aggie soccer).

This year's club enters the season with a little bit of a chip on their shoulders. The squad was picked to finish eighth out of nine teams despite finishing last season in sixth and winning a conference tournament match (defeating Hawai'i and losing to Fresno State, two teams who are no longer in the WAC). We expect that chip along with the sense of urgency that will be created by the group of seniors who with every game will be one step closer to ending their careers, to fuel this year's team to a strong season. The team's primary goal this season is to win the WAC and we would not at all be surprised to see it happen.

Today's opponent Boise State is no stranger as they of course used to be in the WAC. Boise State now resides in the Mountain West and so it's been a couple of seasons since these two teams last met. The Broncos lose their top goal scorer from last season as well as their standout goal keeper Liz Ruiz.

The Aggies continue to make strides on the offensive side of the ball and it will be interesting to see how successful they can be against a young keeper for the Broncos.

Defensively the Aggies should continue to be strong. Last year the team posted seven shutouts last season behind a back line that includes Megan Hendler (the seventh member of the senior class), Vanessa Thomas, Courtney Irwin and Alexys Brownell (replacing Elise Nordin who has moved up into the midfield for her final season). The Aggie goal keeping will be a battle between Jessica Schutter and Mikaela Bitner. Neither one has had a tremendous amount of experience as Bitner redshirted her freshman season while Schutter played in just two matches (playing behind then-senior Katie Graul). Schutter redshirted her sophomore year due to injury and Bitner split time in goal. Bitner redshirted last year due to injury and Schutter was injured for a majority of the season but then started late as Erin Wosick (no longer with the team) suffered an injury late in the season.

Both are capable goal keepers but it will certainly be up to the veteran back line to help out whoever is in goal.

A couple things to watch for in today's season opener -- How will the Aggies start the game? Last year to get out of the gate in several games which caused them to have to play catch-up late in games (which they did very well). Second thing to watch for is the Agges' offense. From the beginning of last season to the end of last season the Aggies made marked improvement offensively. They started connecting passes better and getting better chances. Coach Quinn noted that the offense has taken a big step forward during the spring and preseason camp and we're excited to see how they look.

Today's game is scheduled for a 6:00 p.m. (MDT) kickoff. Live Stats will be available via the Boise State athletic website.

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