JACKSONVILLE, Ala. – Already cementing herself as one of the greats in program history, Loma McNeese took it upon herself to add another mark on her career – recording her first brace as New Mexico State (8-5-1, 5-0-0 CUSA) knocked off Jax State (6-6-2, 1-2-2 CUSA) 2-0 in Jacksonville on Sunday.
The game started slow for the Aggies, recording just one shot and one corner kick in the first half, compared to nine shots (four on goal) and three corners for the Gamecocks.
That all changed in the second half. Drawing a foul in the penalty box in the 50th minute, Loma McNeese converted on her first career penalty kick. Minutes later, a long ball by Ariana Leamons bounced in front of McNeese who outpaced her defender and put it into the far right of the goal.
This gave McNeese the first brace for NM State since Aug. 29, 2021 when Hannah Leitner tallied two goals in a 3-2 win over Nevada.
Through the first few minutes of action neither team could get much going offensively, trading possessions in the midfield. A foul by the Aggies awarded Jax State their first free kick of the afternoon. Using a creative formation to try and confuse NM State the Gamecocks gave themselves an opportunity, however a foul by Salome Kerguillec neutralized the chance.
Mya Fregoli recorded the first shot of the game for either team in the eighth minute, missing the goal and giving NM State a goal kick. Earning their first corner kick of the afternoon, Jax State was able to pressure Aggie keeper Valerie Guha with a pair of shots though she was able to turn both away and pick up her first saves of the match.
Loma McNeese tallied the first shot of the game for NM State, prodding at the reigning CUSA goalkeeper of the week, Bailey Dean. This would be the Aggies’ only shot attempt of the first half, as it was all Gamecocks through the first minutes of play. Jax State was able to total nine first half shots and a trio of corner kicks against the Crimson & White, while also playing a stifling level of defense that was able to snuff out the NM State offense.
Facing a constant barrage of shots in the first half, Valerie Guha went to work again in the 31st minute, turning back a shot by Kylie Wells for her third save of the afternoon. Gamecocks goal leader Laleh Lonteen fired a hot shot at Guha off her right foot in the 35th minute, though the freshman was able to collect it cleanly.
With the clock winding down and both teams eager to head into the break with a lead, NM State collected their first corner kick in the 41st minute. Filling in for an injured Bianca Chacon, Brooke Schultz lined up to take the corner from the right side of the field, firing a cross right into the waiting arms of the Jax State goalkeeper.
At the break, Jax State had a commanding lead in offensive stats, including shots (9-1), shots on goal (4-1), and corner kicks (3-1), while also tallying fewer fouls (7-6).
With a renewed sense of pride following halftime, the Aggies came out looking like the team that had won four straight CUSA matches, attacking the Gamecock defense early in half number two. Within the first minute of action, Gia Valenti put up a shot to test Jax State’s Bailey Dean.
Spending lots of time in the attacking half of the field, the Aggies were able to frustrate the Gamecocks into drawing a foul inside the penalty box on Loma McNeese. Lining up to take the first penalty kick in her 74-game NM State career, the senior from Sherwood, Ore. calmly put the ball past a lunging keeper with her right foot, giving NM State the 1-0 edge.
Never satisfied, McNeese went to work moments later, collecting a deep pass by junior Ariana Leamons and outworking her defenders to fire an off-balance shot toward the goal. With Bailey Dean off her line to disrupt the shot, the ball was able to roll into the far left corner to give the Aggies their second goal in the span of 68 seconds.
Following a tightly contested first half, the two teams started to get chippy in the second half. In total, five yellow cards were given out in the final frame – four charged to Jax State, with Mya Hammack earning the lone NM State yellow.
Turning the game around in the second half, NM State led the Gamecocks in shots (6-5) and corner kicks, while playing their usual brand of smothering defense.
Numbers of Note
- 18 – Following the first brace of her career, Loma McNeese now totals 18 career goals, putting her in sole possession of fifth-place all-time at NM State.
- 6 – With her first of two goals scored on the afternoon, Loma McNeese posted the sixth game-winning goal of her career, and second this season. This mark puts her in second place in NM State history for all-time game-winning goals. Yolanda McMilion (2009-2012) holds the program record with seven career game-winners.
- 5 – Winning their fifth-straight game to begin CUSA action, the Aggies extended their program-best start to conference action, besting a 3-0-1 mark set in 2009.
- 3 – Following a five-save performance against Jax State, Valerie Guha has notched her third career shutout – all on the road, and her third shutout in the past four games.
Following two straight weekends with road matches, the Aggies will return home to the City of Crosses on Thursday, Oct. 12 at 7 p.m. This match will be NM State’s senior night, honoring six seniors: Hannah Draper, Bella Garcia, Loma McNeese, Xitlaly Hernandez, Megan Ormson and Gia Valenti.