Albuquerque, NM – A Lobo goal with less than eight minutes remaining was just enough to push New Mexico over the Patriots by the score of 1-0 in the second round of the NCAA Men’s Soccer Championship as a light snow fell on the UNM Soccer Complex on Sunday evening.
The Lobos maintained consistent pressure all evening, outshooting Mason 19-4 and allowing only two shots on goal from the Patriots to New Mexico’s six. The game-winner came in the 83rd minute off of a Mason turnover when Niko Hansen gained possession and drove to the near post where he made a soft pass through traffic to his left inside the box, allowing New Mexico’s James Rogers to slide the shot past Steffen Kraus for his seventh goal of the season.
Mason gave one last effort inside three minutes to play. With a Mason feed inside the box to Brice Colcombe, the sophomore tried to get it past goalkeeper Michael Lisch who came out from the net and forced the ball out of bounds. New Mexico was able to maintain possession for the final minutes of play to secure the victory.
A scoreless first half saw pressure from both sides but more scoring chances from the Lobos, outshooting the Patriots 9-2 as they were held without a shot on goal in the first frame. Mason had an early chance in the 13th minute after a free kick from 30-yards out when Julio Arjona gave Ryan Harmouche a header chance inside the box that sailed just high of the crossbar.
New Mexico had four of their six shots on the goal in the first half, all saved by Kraus. His biggest came in the 28th minute when a Lobo free kick from 25-yards out was kicked into the box and headed towards the goal, causing Kraus to jump and punch the ball above the net.
Time of possession was fairly even in the second half, where Mason had both of its shots on goal. In addition to Colcombe’s late chance, Arjona had an attempt in the 67th minute that was inside the box but softly kicked to Lisch who made both saves for the Lobos. New Mexico also led the contest with a 7-2 corner kick advantage and had three more fouls than Mason, 9-6. Head coach Greg Andrulis and the coaching staff have nothing but praise for the team after their performance.
"We are very proud of the effort and determination shown tonight by our team," said Andrulis. "The boys left it all on the field. We battled to the end an unfortunately ran out of time to get a result tonight. Credit to a very good and well coached New Mexico team.
"We will have time to reflect on the season at a later date, but for now the seniors on the team raised the level of the program and will have a lasting legacy that they can be proud off."
The Patriots end an historic soccer season in which they were the first team to bring home an Atlantic 10 team championship to George Mason University and tied the second-longest unbeaten streak in team history with 13 consecutive games without a loss. Five players were recognized by the A-10 in making All-Conference teams, including Kraus who was voted the conference Rookie of the Year. The group graduates eight seniors and closes out the season with a 12-3-6 record.