LAS CRUCES, N.M. – Following a season-opening match that forced the Aggies to play the majority of the match with ten players, NM State (2-2-0, 0-0-0 CUSA) welcomed Cal State Fullerton (0-3-1, 0-0-0 Big West) for a Sunday afternoon contest that saw the Aggies emerge victorious 1-0. Xitllaly Hernandez found the back of the net in the 57th minute to put the Aggies on top, while freshman goalkeeper Karolanne Lafortune recorded a clean sheet in just her second career start.
“You can’t replace veterans.” Explained Head Coach Rob Baarts‘ following the game. “What a strike, she banged it from 35 yards out. As soon as she hit it I’m like ‘that’s it’.” This strike represents the tenth career goal for Hernandez, and her first of the 2023 season.
“I was more prepared for this game, less stressed, my backline was incredible during the game.” Said Lafortune. “First clean sheet for me, and it feels so good to say ‘I had a good game.'”
The NM State offense applied pressure early on, forcing three corner kicks in the first 15 minutes of action. The Aggies’ offensive attack also produced a pair of shots on goal – one from Bianca Chacon and the other from forward Xitlaly Hernandez.
Cal State Fullerton eventually found their bearings and began to create some opportunities as a breakaway chance forced NM State goalie Karolanne Lafortune to make her first save of the game.
The Aggies generated another scoring chance in the 34th minute as Jena Johannes got her head on a corner kick sent in by Bianca Chacon, but the shot sailed just over the cross bar. In total, the Aggies outshot the Titans 6-3 during the first 45 minutes, including putting three shots on goal compared to Fullerton’s two.
Ariana Leamons and Meredith Scott got to work early in the half, putting up a shot each to threaten the Titans’ defense. Pressure from Gia Valenti earned control of the ball for the Aggies which led to Xitlaly Hernandez dribbling in space. The striker took aim from 35 yards out and scored the Aggies’ game-winner in the 57th minute of the game.
Cal State Fullerton battled for a chance at the equalizer when they tallied two shots in the 65th minute and put one of them on goal. The Titans also had several other shots go over the cross bar by mere feet, however, they were unable to even the score.
Aside from a few last-ditch efforts from the Titan offense, the second half was fairly even from a possession and scoring opportunity standpoint, however, the Aggie defense often forced the Titans to take shots from well outside the box.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- Xitlaly Hernandez’s goal was the tenth of her career and first of the season. She is now tied for eighth all-time in the NM State record books for goals, while the four shots she recorded move her into sole possession of sixth place on the career shots list.
- True freshman Karolanne Lafortune made the second start of her young career and tallied a career-high six saves in the shutout – the first NM State shutout of the season. This is also the most saves by any Aggie goalie this season.
- Azalie Floriano and Janae Shaklee made their Aggie debuts in the first half of today’s game.
- Maya Hammack has now recorded 360 minutes of playing time, making her the lone Aggie to play every minute for Rob Baarts this season.
- Sunday’s shutout was the first for the Aggies since they recorded three straight clean sheets to take home the 2022 WAC Championship trophy.
The Aggies return to the NM State Soccer Athletic Complex for a pair of home games against Incarnate Word and Pacific. Kick-off against the Cardinals is slated for Thursday, August 31 at 7 p.m., while the match up with the Tigers will begin Sunday, September 3 at 1 pm. MT. For complete coverage of NM State Soccer, visit NMStateSports.com – the official home of Aggie athletics – and follow us on Twitter (@NMStateWSOC), Instagram (@NMStateWSOC), and like us on Facebook (NMStateWSOC).