Aggies upset UTRGV in dominant fashion, clinch first WAC Tournament win since 2014


The New Mexico State Women’s Soccer team made a triumphant return to the WAC Tournament pitch Tuesday afternoon — a competition they’ve not qualified for since 2017 — in a resounding 3-0 thrashing of UTRGV that goes down as the program’s first postseason win in seven years and the first in Rob Baarts’ tenure at the helm.

After coming off of a 2-0 loss to the Grand Canyon Lopes’ at home, this NM State team put together what some might consider a surprisingly dominant performance against the favored Vaqueros, gaining control early and leaving little doubt as to what the result would be.

All-WAC Honorable Mention, team-high goal scorer and Phoenix-native Xitaly Hernandez tacked on her seventh of the season in the 28’ just inside to give give the Aggies a 1-0 lead in the first half. UTRGV would force the issue in pushing for an equalizer, threatening several times with shots on goal before half’s end, but the rock wall that is Dmitri Fong — who had six saves in the match — wouldn’t allow anything past her.

The NM State defense kept one of the WAC’s best players in Emily Zapata in check, never allowing the Vaqueros’ leading goal contributor to find anything space or link up play for serious attacking threats.

The skillful play of the Aggies only intensified in the second. Quickly after the whistle, senior midfielder and All-WAC Second Teamer Emma Smith found fellow All-WAC Second Team forward Hannah Leitner on a beautiful ball up to the corner, where Leitner was able to cross it in to freshman Megan Ormson to convert it in for goal number-two in the 49’.

Leitner continued to show off her unstoppable playmaking ability, picking up her second assist in the 53’ after utilizing her speed to find an opening and deliver a ball on a thread to All-WAC Honorable Mention Corey Kizer, who simply tapped it in for the easy goal. Kizer came into the game as the team’s assist leader, but with two assists back to back, Leitner took that crown herself (Kizer being thrilled to be the recipient of what was ultimately the game sealing score). The speed of Leitner was completely unmatched on the side, exploiting the wing and tearing up UTRGV’s flank time and time again.

That was the story of NM State today — do an excellent job at the team goal, sitting back absorbing the pressure and using Leitner’s speed at the top. After going 0-2 against UTRGV in the regular season, the Aggies re-established themselves as a dangerous team in the conference, making their presence known as they advance to the WAC semis.

This Aggies will look to pick up another upset as they head toward an April 15 clash against top-seeded Utah Valley.

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