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College soccer update: New Mexico thriving; Xavier nets a slick bike (video)

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The 5-1-1 New Mexico Lobos are off to another strong start, and head coach Jeremy Fishbein likes what’s in their guts.

“These guys don’t allow things to distract them from their main goals,” said Fishbein of his squad, which jumped 10 spots to No. 7 in this week’s national poll, “To be excellent students and great players”

Led by six-goal man Chris Wehan and U.S. College ID camp invitee Niko Hansen, the Lobos are off to a hot start (the only loss to then-No.1 UCLA). The success is nothing new to the club, but the side looks as lively as ever this year.

The Lobos have been to two College Cups and a national championship game under Fishbein, who took over in 2001, but the boss says his job has remained the same when it comes to identifying players. He gets higher-profile recruits through the door, but they still fit the mettle and motto of his program.

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“It’s (about) hard-working, caring people,” Fishbein said. “We want to attract those guys. As our reputation has grown, we’ve been able to get a higher level player but not at the expense of great students and people who want to be in the community.”

Fishbein’s crew has been paced in attack by a pair of players with 23-plus shots to start the season: Hansen and Wehan. Both juniors — Wehan is a redshirt — the latter has been particularly deadly. He’s put three of six goals home for match-winners.

“Most valuable is his leadership and his humility,” Fishbein said. “That’s probably his most valuable quality. The goals were great but it’s more than we can expect out of any individual player. He’s a special person, a quality person.”

New Mexico is the last Conference USA school to begin conference play, and it does so with a doozy of a cross-country trip to face the South Carolina Gamecocks, a crafty side led by D-2 transfer Danny Deakin’s four goals.

“It’s a challenging place to play,” Fishbein said. “We haven’t been there in two years. We have some goals. We want to continue to grow.”

Three stars

  1. Gordon Wild, USC Upstate — What a difference a freshman can make. The German import has 12 goals in 6 games to start his college career, as the Spartans have opened the season 4-2. While his big goal performances — 4, 2, 1, 3, 2 in his last five matches — have come mostly against struggling competition, you can’t argue 12 goals in 6 matches. Looking at the Spartans’ slate the rest of the way, Wild’s number could be, well, wild at the end of the year.
  2. St. Francis Brooklyn — After a 5-0 win at Howard, the Terriers have allowed a grand total of 1 goal in their 5-0-2 start. That’s a 0.13 goals against average, and included is a draw against UConn. Starting goalkeeper Jack Binks has played all but 16 minutes of the season.
  3. Jorge Gomez Sanchez, Temple — The junior midfielder transfered from Universidad Europea, and the Spaniard has not taken long to adjust to the U.S. game. Gomez Sanchez scored a hat trick in a 3-0 win over Penn this weekend, giving him 10 goals — five of them game-winners — in the No. 17 Owls’ 6-0-1 start.

Other notes

— What say you to this bike goal from Xavier’s Alex Ridsdale?

— There are only a few unbeaten, undrawn teams remaining in the men’s Division I ranks: No. 1 Creighton (6-0), No. 8 Elon (7-0) and… Columbia. The 4-0 Ivy Leaguers received 14 points in the latest rankings. They’ve beaten Providence already, and get New Hampshire this weekend.

— Denver University is up to No. 12 in the polls, and they’ve done it without a player scoring more than three goals. Five have two or more, and that includes redshirt junior Chandler Crosswait, who has two goals and four assists.

— Also No. 1: Charleston (Men’s D2), Tufts (Men’s D3), Virginia (Women’s D1), Central Missouri (Women’s D2), Messiah (Women’s D3).

Potential MLS No.1 pick, heated rivalry highlight this weekend’s College Cup

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Patrick Mullins has done an awful lot on what could be the path to the No. 1 overall pick in the 2014 MLS Superdraft. He won the 2012 Hermann Trophy as the nation’s best male player and just may repeat the feat this year. The 6-foot-1 forward has 16 goals this season and a boatload of career honors.

What he doesn’t have is an NCAA championship, and he can’t get it without knocking off heated rival Virginia on Friday in what amounts to their final battle as ACC foes.

2013 College Cup (in Philadelphia, Penn.)
FINAL FOUR:
(3) Notre Dame vs. (7) New Mexico, 530pm ET
(5) Maryland vs. (8) Virginia, 730pm ET
CHAMPIONSHIP: 3pm ET on Sunday

The Terps are the only returning school among the College Cup contestants, which is Atlantic Coast Conference-heavy with three of the four schools coming from the ACC. Maryland,  3-time champions, is hungry for its first title since 2008, while the Cavaliers have six titles to their name and would love little more than to deny Mullins the biggest accolade missing from his four years at College Park.

Mullins and teammate Schillo Tshuma went in the Top Four of MLS’ first mock draft lats month and are the headline prospects from the weekend. Notre Dame centerback Grant van de Casteele, Maryland winger Sunny Jane and New Mexico midfielder Michael Calderon and defender Kyle Venter are among the draft-rumored names on the pitch in Philadelphia.

Cheat sheet:

– Maryland beat Virginia 1-0 in the ACC title game last month and the two schools drew 3-3 at Charlottesville in October.

– This is Notre Dame’s first College Cup appearance.

– Notre Dame lost to Virginia in kicks during the ACC semifinals after the two teams played to a 3-3 stalemate. Virginia also beat the Irish 2-0 during the conference play.

– New Mexico’s lone College Cup appearance ended in a loss to Maryland in the 2005 championship game.