LAS CRUCES, New Mexico (KVIA) -- Following a challenging nine-game non-conference schedule that saw the Aggies go 3-5-1, NM State (4-5-1) kicked off CUSA action the right way, knocking off LA Tech (3-6-1) in a tense 4-3 contest. Gia Valenti got the scoring started in the first half, while Loma McNeese, Ariana Leamons and Shila Rasoul tallied second-half goals to put the Crimson & White on top.
After building up a 2-0 lead early in the second half, it didn’t take long for the Bulldogs to equalize, using a penalty kick and another quick score to make it 2-2 game. Ariana Leamons used a header by Loma McNeese to easily put the ball into the net with a header of her own in the 70th minute. Shila Rasoul added an insurance goal in the 85th minute that proved handy, as LA Tech would score on their second penalty kick of the game in the 88th minute.
Less than 15 minutes in the contest, the Aggie offense produced the game’s first goal as Loma McNeese worked the ball up the field before finding an open Gia Valenti at the top of the 18-yard box. Valenti then used premier placement to put a shot over the Bulldog goalie and into the top left corner of the goal.
Aside from this chance from the Aggies, both defenses were stout in the opening period as the two sides combined to take just four shots, three of which came from Aggie attackers. Of the four shots taken during the first 45 minutes, Valenti’s goal was the only shot to find the frame.
Following some adjustments at the break, the strikers were the ones making the noise in the second half as the two squads combined to score six goals in the final 45 minutes.
The Aggies quickly took the lid off the La Tech defense as Meredith Scott placed the ball at the feet of Loma McNeese who scored the Aggies second goal of the match and her first goal since the season opener at Portland State.
Moments later, the Bulldogs pulled even as they scored back-to-back goals. The first came off of a penalty kick while the second was tallied by Avery Kyle who used her right foot to put one past Valerie Guha.
The two teams then spent nearly 20 minutes tied before an Aggie free kick produced a third Aggie goal. In the 70th minute, Mya Hammack played a looping free kick into the box where Loma McNeese was able her head to the ball and redirect it to Ariana Leamons who headed in the Aggie goal. This would be Leamons’ first goal of her career.
In the 85th minute, a second Aggie generated her first career goal as Shila Rasoul collected a rebound off of a shot from Bianca Chacon to smash home the Aggies’ fourth goal of the day and give NM State a two-goal cushion with just five minutes remaining on the clock.
Two minutes later, the La Tech offense would earn its second penalty kick of the afternoon and, after Carmen Suarez converted the attempt, the Bulldogs would find themselves trailing the Aggies by just one goal. Despite every effort from Louisiana Tech, Guha and the Aggie defense stood tall and helped earn the team’s fourth win on the season.
NUMBERS OF NOTE
- Sunday’s win marks the first league win as a member of Conference USA since becoming a member on July 1, 2023. The Aggies improve to 5-7-3 all-time in conference openers.
- Meredith Scott tallied her first assist as an Aggie, one of two assists NM State produced on the afternoon.
- First-year Aggies Ariana Leamons and Shila Rasoul each notched the first goals of their careers at NM State, both coming in the second half off of headers.