By Dave Wagner
The Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team has relied on defense to stay in most of its matches. The next step in the process is to be able to score.
Junior forward Lubomir Bogdanov’s goal in the 19th minute held up, and Incarnate Word clinched the Southwest Soccer Conference’s first regular-season championship on Sunday with a 1-0 win over the Greyhounds at the ENMU pitch.
UIW (15-3-1, 12-1-1 SSC), which had 10 international players on its roster, will now host the four-team league tournament beginning on Thursday in San Antonio. Meantime, the Hounds (6-12-2, 3-10-1) were blanked for the 11th time in their first season of competition (0-10-1).
“With having so many freshmen and still learning, defense is the primary thing,” ENMU assistant coach Carlos Elizondo said. “If you have a good defense, you can build from that.
“As a first-year team, playing in about the most competitive (NCAA Division II) conference, we showed we could compete. It’s a great foundation to build on for next year.”
The Cardinals needed the win to hold off Midwestern State for the league title and earn homefield in the SSC tourney, and coach Dennis Currier said he expected a difficult match.
“Not too many teams are coming in here and blowing these guys out,” he said. “They get a lot of people back on defense, and that makes it tough (to score). We didn’t take this match lightly at all.
“I knew after the first half that it was going to be close. I felt we were going to have to get another goal to win the game.”
ENMU managed just two shots on goal. Its best opportunity came early in the second half when freshman forward Albert Robinson flicked the ball over his head from the endline to freshman forward Jonathan Holman, whose shot from close range hit the left pipe.
Holman got the rebound and fired again, but UIW goalkeeper Morten Larsen made a scrambling save.
“We possessed the ball a lot better in the second half,” Elizondo said. “That one defensive lapse early cost us.”
Zias eliminated in finale — At Edmond, Okla., Central Oklahoma locked up the Lone Star Conference women’s soccer regular-season championship and eliminated Eastern New Mexico University from contention for the league’s six-team postseason tournament on Sunday with a 4-0 victory.
UCO (13-5-2, 7-1-1 LSC) won its third conference title in the past five years. With the loss, the second-year Zias (9-9-2, 2-5-2) can finish no higher than seventh after East Central played Midwestern State to a 1-1 tie on Sunday.
The Bronchos had 10 shots on goal in the match while the Zias managed only one.
“They definitely outplayed us,” ENMU coach Travis McCorkle said. “They’re a good team, and that’s why they won the conference.”
Lacy Cooley scored the only goal of the first half in the 19th minute. The Bronchos got their second goal from Lindsey Hull in the 52nd minute, and then put the match completely out of reach with two late goals by Melissa Terry.
The Zias tripled their win total from last year, but McCorkle said it was a little disappointing they couldn’t turn late-season ties against ECU and Southwestern Oklahoma into wins.
“Overall it was a good year,” he said. “We just needed to do something against East Central and Southwestern Oklahoma. We kind of took our chances (of qualifying for the league tournament) away from ourselves.”