The NMSU women’s soccer team is ranked No. 1 in the Western Athletic Conference for the first time in program history. After defeating Abilene Christian on Sunday, the team holds a 6-3-3 record.
All games have been close calls and some would say impressive after playing teams like Oregon and Texas A&M. Even though both of those games ended in losses, head coach Rob Baartz feels confident in his team’s tactics.
“The goal was not to stay where we’re at,” Baartz said. “The goal is to move forward and if we’re going to play in the [NCAA] tournament, we have to play teams like A&M and Oregon. And you know, the SEC, the PAC 12.”
Baartz is in his fifth year coaching at NMSU and is up for the challenge. Baartz has a positive mindset and says he wants to show that the team is here to compete.
“Now when we come back into the major schools that we’re playing, it puts us in a better place to have that ability to compete at a high level. And we’re playing a lot faster for it,” he said.
The Aggies did not qualify for the NCAA tournament last year after being eliminated by Lamar in the first round of the WAC tournament. The team has seen good and bad times, but this season is looking to be a turnaround from last season.
“It’s a good feeling. I’ve been here for the past three years now and to see the growth from my freshman year to my senior year, it’s been really good,” said Xitlaly Hernandez, Aggie midfielder and team captain.
Hernandez sees something special in this group of players. She says she feels confident in their playing style and ball movement up and down the field. Hernandez has played all 12 games this season, scoring one goal and assisting on seven more.
“[Hernandez] has been a tremendous leader. She’s a soccer fanatic. She loves the game. I think she’s been a huge part of our culture that we built,” Baartz said. “She’s kind of been through the whole thing. She’s seen our bad times and now she’s starting to see our good times. I think she’s been a massive part of that and I think she’s going to do great things for us.”
The games that took place last weekend showed that the Aggies can put up a dominant performance. On Friday, the Aggies defeated Tarleton State by a score of 4-0. Sunday, goalkeeper Makenna Gottschalk recorded her fifth clean sheet of the season after a 1-0 victory versus Abilene Christian. Fans see there’s scoring from not only the offensive side but the defense is putting up some numbers on the scoreboard, too.
Trent Schultz, an Aggie soccer fan, mentioned how strong the team is from its forwards to its defense.
“Four different players scoring and players from every line scoring, that’s a good sign of a strong team,” Schultz said.
The Aggies have five games remaining on their schedule before the WAC tournament next month. They will be playing their last home game this upcoming Friday versus Southern Utah. Kickoff starts at 7 p.m.