By Joseph Kolb
ALBUQUERQUE N.M. (Reuters) - University of New Mexico officials on Wednesday canceled the first match of the women's soccer team's season after a hazing incident that left a teenager in hospital, and they said the UNM athletics department had let down its players.
"We failed the young women of our soccer program who did not understand the seriousness of hazing," UNM athletic director Paul Krebs told a news conference in Albuquerque.
"These are good women, but they damaged the reputation of the university, the women's soccer program, and themselves."
University officials said heavy drinking was involved, but they rejected local media reports that Sunday night's incident involved players being made to strip, or even being sprayed with urine.
Krebs said an ongoing probe has revealed that the majority of the team's players were consuming alcohol at more than one off-campus location, but that none of them were forced to drink.
A report by UNM campus police said officers responding to a 911 call took one 18-year-old player to hospital who was extremely intoxicated and having trouble breathing. A second intoxicated 18-year-old was not transported, police said.
Krebs said that while the investigation continues, Friday's season opener against Texas Tech in the Mountain West Conference has been canceled, resulting in a $5,000 fine for UNM.
"We are also assessing what our coaches did and didn't know (about the incident)," Krebs told reporters.
Kit Vela, the soccer team's coach, sat alongside him and appeared visibly distressed.
"As a mother, I am upset and angered over what happened," she said, adding that the teenager who went to hospital was released on Monday. Vela said the player and her sister, who was also on the team, have since left the university.
(Reporting by Joseph Kolb; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Eric Walsh)
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