By Dave Wagner: CNJ sports writer
PORTALES — Despite a slow start to their season, Eastern New Mexico University’s Brian Swan thinks the Greyhounds can make some noise in the men’s Southwest Soccer Conference.
Swan assisted on ENMU’s final goal Sunday, and the Hounds held on for a 3-2 victory over St. Mary’s at the ENMU soccer pitch.
Freshman Rhen Salas had a goal and an assist in the first half as Eastern (2-4-1, 1-2 SSC) ended a two-match home losing streak.
“People may not expect us to be at (the upper level of the SSC), but we can compete with any team here,” said Swan, a freshman defender from San Antonio. “We’ve got a good group of guys, and all we have to do is play our game.”
Salas notched the game’s first goal in the fifth minute, a header to the right corner of the net from about 8 yards out. After the Rattlers (0-3, 0-2) tied it, Salas got an assist when his shot was tapped in from close range by freshman forward Jared Morris just before halftime to put the Hounds in front for good.
Martin Gallegos added a tap-in early in the second half off a deflection of Swan’s shot from the right wing. The margin was cut in half less than 10 minutes later, but the Hounds held on for the final 28 minutes.
“It definitely put a lot of pressure on us,” Swan said of St. Mary’s second goal. “We forced ourselves to lock up and play physical defense.”
ENMU coach Carlos Elizondo said going with the wind in the second half helped his team play the ball into St. Mary’s end and make it hard for the Rattlers to mount counterattacks.
“We wanted the wind in the first half, but it was just the luck of the coin toss (won by St. Mary’s),” he said. “We found some consistency in the midfield finally with Keith (Vargas) and Rob (Humphrey), and it helped us possess the ball more.”
The loss was frustrating for St. Mary’s, which has started the season with three road setbacks. Still, coach Que Willis said his team played reasonably well.
“The guys did some things well, but defensively we made some mistakes and probably let in more goals than we should have,” Willis said. “We played hard. I’m definitely looking forward to going home.”
Zias fall in second half — St. Mary’s women broke a scoreless tie with two goals in the first six minutes of the second half and went on to a 4-0 non-conference victory over the Zias in the first game of Sunday’s doubleheader.
Kyle Hyslop and Rachel Maldonado each had a goal and an assist for the Rattlers (3-2).
“We just didn’t have enough creativity to get behind them,” ENMU women’s coach Travis McCorkle said. “We felt fine at halftime, but St. Mary’s is an aggressive team and we don’t play an overly aggressive style.”
McCorkle said the Zias (3-3) had some chances going with the wind in the first half, but couldn’t keep a lot of their shots and passes from sailing long.
Despite a second home loss in three days, McCorkle said he’s encouraged by the Zias’ early play.
“We’ve had a good start,” he said. “There’s no reason to panic.”
St. Mary’s 4, ENMU 0
St. Mary’s 0 4 — 4
ENMU 0 0 — 0
SMU — Kyle Hyslop (Deann Lopez), 47:50
SMU — Rachel Maldonado (Hyslop), 50:11
SMU — Erin McCutcheon, 63:36
SMU — Kelly Dowd (Maldonado), 76:52
Shots on goal — St. Mary’s 10, Eastern New Mexico 5. Corner kicks — St. Mary’s 3, Eastern New Mexico 3. Saves — St. Mary’s 5 (Lily Cano 5), Eastern New Mexico 6 (Stephanie Sanchez 6). Fouls — St. Mary’s 14, Eastern New Mexico 17. Yellow cards — St. Mary’s 1 (Dowd), Eastern New Mexico 2 (Nicole Bregler, Jennifer Goodrum). Records — St. Mary’s 3-2, Eastern New Mexico 3-3. A — 75.
Southwest Soccer Conference
ENMU 3, St. Mary’s 2
St. Mary’s 1 1 — 2
ENMU 2 1 — 3
ENM — Rhen Salas (Jonathan Holman), 4:19
SMU — Scott Kilpatrick, 9:11
ENM — Jared Morris (Salas), 42:33
ENM — Martin Gallegos (Brian Swan), 52:33
SMU — Logan Snyder, 62:00
Shots on goal — St. Mary’s 6, Eastern New Mexico 9. Corner kicks — St. Mary’s none, Eastern New Mexico 6. Saves — St. Mary’s 6 (Steven Michael 4, team 2), Eastern New Mexico 4 (Josh Tingalia). Fouls — St. Mary’s 21, Eastern New Mexico 15. Yellow cards — St. Mary’s 2 (Charlie Sanchez, Brendan Birch), Eastern New Mexico none. Records — St. Mary’s 0-3-0 (0-2-0), Eastern New Mexico 2-4-1 (1-2-0). A — 125.