HILLSBORO, Ore. – The first match of the season can never make or break a team, but getting off to a strong start can often serve as a launch pad to a successful year. Fortunately, for this year’s Aggie squad, a goal from Loma McNeese in the final moments of the game turned a match that appeared to be headed to a draw into an Aggie victory.
NM State (1-0-0, 0-0-0 CUSA) earned a 2-1 win over Portland State (0-1-0, 0-0-0 Big Sky) inside Hillsboro Stadium on opening night of the collegiate season. Goals for the Aggies were scored by Gia Valenti and Loma McNeese. McNeese also added an assist as did midfielder Bianca Chacon.
After backing up second team all-conference goalie Makenna Gottschalk one season ago, Valerie Guha earned the first start of her career and finished the night with five saves.
The Aggies used the early goings of their first match to get a feel for their Pacific Northwest opponent as they took zero looks at goal through the first 14 minutes of action. NM State’s first sincere opportunity came in the 15th minute when transfer Meredith Scott took her first shot as an Aggie after breaking beyond the back line of the Vikings defense before putting a shot on goal from just outside the six-yard box.
Following another 13 minutes of methodical play, Preseason CUSA Offensive Player of the Year Loma McNeese made her presence felt as she set up Gia Valenti who used her right foot to put one in the back of the net from the top of the box – giving the NM State its first lead of the season.
Prior to the first 45 running out, Portland State found the equalizer as the Vikings Elle Frazier scored in the 38th minute to assist in sending the two sides to the break even at one goal apiece.
The first impact play of the second period came in the first minute of the half as McNeese sent a looping ball in from about 20 yards out that required the PSU goalie to make a jumping save. Later, NM State’s Ariana Leamons drew a foul which led to a yellow card for the Portland State defender and a free kick for the Aggies.
As the sun set, NM State began to see its pressure turn into several scoring chances – forcing Portland State’s keeper to save shots on goal from Bianca Chacon, Xitlaly Hernandez, Megan Ormson and Meredith Scott.
With the score remaining even, Portland State earned a breakaway opportunity, however, the Aggie defenders quickly hustled back to prevent the PSU attacker from getting a shot off.
Moments later, Loma McNeese proved why she is considered one of the biggest x-factors on the Aggie roster as she put in the game-winner. The junior got her forehead to a ball bouncing in the box from a Bianca Chacon free kick to help the Aggies tally their first win of the season.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- Nine of the 11 Aggie starters were members of the 2022 team that earned the program’s first-ever NCAA Tournament appearance. Meanwhile, Valerie Guha, Meredith Scott and Ariana Leamons each made their first starts of their Aggie careers.
- With her goal in the 28th minute of action, senior Gia Valenti equaled her goal output from her junior campaign.
- After scoring in just the second game of the season last year, Loma McNeese outdid herself this year by scoring in the first match of the season. With the game-winner, McNeese moves into second place in program history in game-winning goals (5) and ties her for sixth in career points (36). The junior from Sherwood, Ore., also recorded her first assist of the season and eighth of her career.
- Bianca Chacon’s set up on the final goal of the night moved the junior midfielder into a four-way tie for fourth place all time in assists in program history.
Next, the Aggies travel to Lubbock, Texas, where they will battle with Power Five foe Texas Tech on Sunday, August 20. The match versus the Red Raiders is scheduled to get underway at 6 p.m. MT and will be streamed live on ESPN+.
Texas Tech was also in action on opening day as they visited the Aggies’ I-25 rival New Mexico and earned a 1-1 tie with the Lobos.