West Texas A&M University freshman Eric Smith leaps over Eastern New Mexico University freshman Andrew Perez during the first half of Tuesday’s game in Portales. ENMU and West Texas played to a scoreless tie after two overtimes. (Staff photo: Eric Kl
By Dave Wagner@link.freedom.com
PORTALES — If a tie is like kissing your sister, neither West Texas A&M nor Eastern New Mexico University felt particularly neutral about it.
The Buffaloes and Greyhounds battled to a scoreless draw in Southwest Soccer Conference men’s soccer on Tuesday at the ENMU pitch. While WT (10-4-2, 7-2-1 SSC) clinched one of the four berths to the SSC’s postseason tournament next week, the Buffs came away feeling almost as if they’d lost.
“It’s a little disappointing,” admitted WT coach Butch Lauffer, whose team routed the Hounds 7-0 in the earlier meeting in Canyon, Texas. “When you hit the post twice and miss a penalty kick, you don’t deserve to win.
“But give (Eastern) credit; they fought hard to the end. They did well today.”
It was an emotional match for both teams, but interestingly not a single yellow card was issued. The Hounds (5-11-2, 2-9-1) were determined to make a statement after getting bashed in the earlier matchup.
“We didn’t want them to come back to our field and have the same result,” said ENMU sophomore goalkeeper Leif Craddock, one of two transfers from the WT program. “We definitely came out (playing) harder this time.”
Craddock had eight saves in the match, and also got a bit lucky a couple of times. WT junior forward Josh Fender had a shot clang off the post from about 20 yards out 11 minutes into the match, and then hit the post again from close range in the second half after an ENMU foul in the penalty box.
“That was big-time,” Craddock said. “Luckily, he missed it. But it got us fired up.”
In a 2-1 overtime loss to last-place Missouri Southern on Saturday, the Hounds lost several players to injuries. Assistant coach Carlos Elizondo noted that starting defender Brian Jonas (ACL tear), Ryan Atkinson (ankle) and Marcus Leyva (ankle) were all lost against the Lions.
“I’m so happy with our boys right now,” Elizondo said. “Not one of our starting defenders played in this game, but we played with our hearts.”
He said the earlier loss at WT “really hurt us emotionally because we have two players that transferred (from WT). This meant everything in the world to my only senior (Joseph Alvarez, the other transfer) to come out and give it all we’ve got.”
Lauffer said the Buffs simply got on top early in the first matchup and steamrolled.
“It seemed like everything we shot went in,” he said. “Today, if that first ball (by Fender) goes in, who knows what happens?”
Eastern closes out its first soccer campaign with home conference matches at 2 p.m. Friday against St. Mary’s and at noon on Sunday against Incarnate Word.