Written By: NM State Athletic Dept.
LAS CRUCES, N.M. - New Mexico State women's soccer head coach Michael Needham has announced the inaugural women's soccer schedule for the 2009 season, Wednesday, May 30.
The program's first schedule is packed with solid non-conference competition, nine home matches and chances to compete in some marquee environments. Needham said that he is very excited with how the schedule took shape.
"I think the schedule is very balanced," Needham said. "We are going to have the chance to play a good pre-conference schedule that is going to prepare us for conference play. Plus, we get to play in some neat environments, which will open our athletes eyes to college soccer. I know that there are going to be a lot of firsts this year and I feel that the more we can expose the student-athletes in the first 10 games, the better off we will be come conference time."
The Aggies open their inaugural campaign in Las Cruces, N.M., with a pair of exhibition games, Aug. 15, against New Mexico Highlands and three days later, Aug. 18, against the College of the Southwest.
Then the Crimson and White travels to El Paso, Texas, to face I-10 rival UTEP, Aug. 21. The Miners capped off the 2008 season with an 11-4-1 overall record and a 9-1-1 home record.
"I think both communities are excited about having two Divisions I programs in this area and it's going to be a great season opener for us," Needham added. "I think the atmosphere is going to be fun and I think that it will be a packed house. It is great to be able to put our student-athletes in an environment like that right away. It's going to help prepare us."
NM State hosts Idaho State, Aug. 23, in the season home opener and then hits the road for a four-game road stint. The Aggies open the road stretch with a meeting at North Texas, Aug. 30, in Denton, Texas, who finished the 2008 season with a 15-4-1.
"Idaho State is a quality Division I team that is going to be great competition in our home opener," Needham said. "We will be able to play in front of our fans and let them see our style of play.
"I think the four-game road trip is going to be great experience," he added. "The University of North Texas is a great team and is a top 100 RPI team from last year."
Then the Aggies head to Colorado for a pair of games. NM State kicks off September at Colorado State-Pueblo, in Pueblo, Colo., Sept. 4, and then faces Air Force, Sept. 6, in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Northern Arizona is the final stop of the road stretch as the Crimson and White face the Lumber Jacks, Sept. 12, in Flagstaff, Ariz.
"The Pueblo and Air force trip will give the athletes an opportunity to be on the road for a whole weekend, find our rhythm on the road and play good teams," he added. "Pueblo has a tradition of being a great Division II program and has had lots of success in the past two years. Air Force is also a great program and is going to be tough, especially at home."
The Aggies return to Aggie Country to challenge University of Texas at Permian Basin, Sept. 16 and West Texas A&M, Sept. 21.
"Playing at home is always nice," Needham said. "By this point of the season, playing at home will allow us to get our feet on the ground and find out who we are."
Then the Aggies hit the road for the final two road games before WAC action begins. In Beaumont, Texas, the Aggie first face Lamar, Sept. 25, and then Northwestern State, Sept. 27.
NM State opens conference play in Las Cruces with a meeting against Boise State, Oct. 2, and then versus Idaho, Oct. 4. Last season, Boise State finished fourth in regular season play with a record of 11-8-2 and 3-3-1 in the WAC. Idaho concluded the season with an eighth-place conference finish after registering an overall record of 1-16-2.
Needham added that he was very excited to open the conference season at home.
"To get that draw in the first year is absolutely huge," Needham said. "We get to open conference play in front of our fans, at home. I couldn't be happier."
California is the next stop for the Aggies and it features a meeting at Fresno State, Oct. 9, and then at San Jose State, Oct. 11. Fresno State ended 2008 regular season play with an 11-9-1 overall record and a 5-1-1 conference record, which placed them second overall. SJSU finished fifth in the league last year with an overall record of 5-11-4 and a conference record of 2-4-1.
Returning home is the next mark on the schedule as the Aggies challenge Hawai'i, Oct. 18, and then hit the road five days later to face Louisiana Tech, Oct. 23. The Rainbow Wahine claimed third last season in conference play with a record of 8-7-4 and a conference record of 4-2-1, while LA Tech was seventh with an overall record of 10-5-5.
"Getting to play Hawai'i at home is huge for us," Needham said. "They are a great team, a top team and we need to be excited for that challenge."
The Aggie return home for the final home game of the 2009 season against Nevada, Oct. 30, and then travel to Logan, Utah, to face the 2008 defending WAC Champions Utah State in the final game of the season, Nov. 1.
"To finish the season in Logan and face the defending WAC champions is something that we're going to welcome," Needham said. "Playing top teams are only going to make us better.
"Overall, our WAC schedule is going to be challenging," Needham said. "I expect us to respond and to battle. Our goal is to make a run at the conference tournament."
The 2009 WAC Tournament is hosted by Boise State, in Boise, Idaho, Nov. 5-8. The format allows all but one team from the conference to attend. Last season in the conference championships, Fresno State downed Utah State, 2-1, in double-overtime to take the crown.
"The WAC is a good conference and any of the nine teams are good enough to make a run in the tournament," Needham said. "For us to get to jump into that mix is going to be fun. We are going to try to make some noise in the first year, which is what anyone in this position would want to do."