Freedom New Mexico
All things considered, a tie was OK with the Eastern New Mexico University men’s soccer team on Sunday at the ENMU pitch.
Suffice it to say, Incarnate Word coach Vince Martinez was less than thrilled about it.
Needing only a draw to clinch the program’s first conference title in its eight-year history, the Greyhounds went toe-to-toe with UIW for 110 minutes, resulting in a scoreless tie. That was enough to give ENMU (9-3-5, 3-0-2 Lone Star Conference) the outright title in the four-team league.
The Cardinals (11-2-3, 2-1-3), ranked 12th in NCAA Division II, needed a win to assure themselves a share of the top spot.
Both teams made it tough for the other to break through.
“I guess when you come to a place where all you need is a draw, it’s going to be difficult,” Martinez said. “I congratulate them for winning the Lone Star, but our goal all along was to make the (NCAA Division II) playoffs.
“We tried to play soccer; they kept 10 men in the box. But they played hard, I’ll give (that) to them.”
Actually, the stats told a slightly different story. ENMU outshot the Cardinals 17-13, including 9-7 in shots on goal.
ENMU coach Harold Munoz said the Hounds got what they needed, but emphasized they were trying to win.
“We had two breakaways that we didn’t convert,” he said. “We hit the post (on a second-half shot by junior midfielder Kal Herbert) — did they hit the post? No.
“That’s (tie) what we needed, and we did what we needed to be champions. It’s not something that happens every day for us.”
Both goalkeepers were solid. UIW’s Chris Fidler got a piece of Herbert’s near-miss and made seven saves overall, while ENMU freshman Matt Malak had six saves.
The Hounds, former Southwest Soccer Conference members with UIW, have still never beaten the Cardinals (0-6-3), but they’ve now earned three ties in the last four matchups. The teams played to a 1-1 draw earlier this season in San Antonio, Incarnate’s only blemish at home (6-0-1).
UIW leads the South Central Region rankings and is likely to get a Division II tournament berth, although the Cardinals have gone 1-1-2 in their last four outings, including a 1-1 tie on Friday at West Texas A&M.
“The ties don’t help us, but they don’t hurt us,” Martinez said. “Making the playoffs was our goal.”
Meantime, the Hounds are fourth in the region. They end the regular season on Friday at nationally seventh-ranked Midwestern State (11-3-1, 1-3-0), a team they edged 2-1 earlier at home.
“We probably need a result (win or tie) against Midwestern,” Munoz said. “Maybe that would get us in.”
The men’s soccer title is the second LSC team championship for the school this fall, along with men’s cross country.