FARMINGTON — Riley McGovern is finally getting his shot on the University of New Mexico men's soccer team.
After two seasons of limited playing time as a redshirt freshman and sophomore, McGovern, a 2010 Farmington High graduate, broke out last season, tallying three assists and putting four of his eight shots in the back of the net.
Now, entering his final season at UNM, McGovern has cracked the starting 11 for the Lobos' 2014 season.
"It feels great," McGovern said, of making the Lobos starting lineup. "And being from Farmington makes it a pretty cool experience, too. Not a lot of kids from New Mexico get the chance to play here."
On the pitch, McGovern was one of the best players to come out of Farmington.
As a senior in 2009, McGovern helped the Scorpions to the school's first state title, was named New Mexico's 4A Player of the Year and earned his second straight District 1 4A Player of the Year Award.
In club soccer, McGovern was a three-time state champion on Rio Vista Huff's 17-, 18- and 19-and-under teams and a semifinalist with each of the three club teams in the Region IV State Cup, which is made up of the 13 western states,
McGovern also starred for the Scorps on the track, taking the 2010 4A High Point Male Athlete Award at the state championships, winning titles in the 110- and 300-meter hurdles and the 4x400 meter relay and earning second in the triple jump and 4x100 meter relay.
But when McGovern headed to UNM for the Lobos 2010 season, he was no longer a star the community recognized. Instead, he was a reserve, learning to deal with his new role in a new system.
"It was definitely an adjustment," said McGovern, who played a combined 276 minutes in his first two seasons at UNM. "In Farmington and in the soccer community, a lot of people knew who I was, and here that wasn't the case. But I liked the opportunity for a fresh start. I was kind of nice, actually."
McGovern admitted at times it was difficult not getting as much playing time as he would have liked, but he also knew it could be a long wait at UNM, a power in the Mountain West Conference that has made the NCAA tournament 11 of the last 13 seasons.
But last year, McGovern finally broke through, recording more than 1,000 minutes while appearing in all of the Lobos' 22 matches and scoring against Penn State in the Round of 16 at the NCAA tournament.
"I gained a ton of confidence from last year," said McGovern, who returned to his natural attacking position at right back. "Playing in an attacking position was nice, and it definitely made me feel that the coaches had a lot of confidence in me. It was a huge improvement from the three previous years."
Now, McGovern is one of three seniors on the back line for the Lobos, who are ranked fifth in the NCAA preseason poll. McGovern thinks this year's squad could be better than last year's team that made the Final Four.
"We have just as many talented players as we've ever had," McGovern said. "Our back line is really experienced. I don't see many goals being scored on us this year or losing many games, if we lose any."
For McGovern, the days of sparse playing time are gone. And with it comes the pressure of having his name in the starting 11 for the Lobos, which draw more than 4,000 fans for home matches. McGovern said he has felt the pressure of having so many eyes fixed on him and the team, but it's those expectations that push him and the rest of the team to succeed year after year.
"With so many people in the community who show their support every year, you feel a little bit of pressure to win the majority of your games, but it's a pressure that all of us like," McGovern said. "I don't think there is a player on the team that doesn't like the pressure. I certainly enjoy it."