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U of New Mexico women's soccer team rescheduled wine-tasting fundraiser after hazing incident

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ALBUQUERQUE, New Mexico — A wine-tasting fundraiser for the University of New Mexico women's soccer team that was postponed following a hazing incident is back on and will be held next month at an Albuquerque restaurant.

The university's athletic department decided in August to hold off on the fundraiser after a night of partying and drinking ended with two underage players being taken to the hospital for excessive alcohol consumption.

Head coach Kit Vela told the Albuquerque Journal (http://bit.ly/1wAmPZv) in an article published Tuesday that the fundraiser had been planned long before the Aug. 17 hazing incident. The fundraiser was originally scheduled for Aug. 31.

"It never had athletes as any part of it," Vela said of the planned fundraiser. "It was unfortunate that people thought differently. But (in August) we felt like it was in the best interest of everything going on, that we put it to bed a little bit."

An internal investigation of the hazing incident determined that the team's nine freshmen were taken to a number of locations before they ended up at a party. University officials say the girls weren't forced to drink but did so because of peer pressure.

Athletic director Paul Krebs canceled the team's season opener at Texas Tech and suspended Vela for a week without pay after the investigation was completed. Team members were also suspended for one game.

The fundraiser — dubbed Vines, Corks and Cleats — will include wine tasting and tapas at Vernon's Hidden Valley Steakhouse. There will also be a silent auction and raffle prizes.

Vernon's is a major sponsor of the women's soccer team. The restaurant has held events in the past, raising about $40,000 for the program, the university said.

The team has regrouped since the beginning of the season, having lost only one of its last seven games. Vela called the team a great group.

"They are strong, young women who I think will be tremendous in the community because they've learned lessons. They've bonded, and they're very united," Vela said.

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