UNLV women look for 6th straight MWC title
It took 70 minutes for the UNLV women’s soccer team to score its first goal and emerge victorious on Sunday against UC Irvine, besting the Anteaters by a score of two goals to nil in their stadium. For the Rebels, it was better late than never, as UNLV (1-0-1) scored twice in the final 20 minutes of the game.
The offensive pace of the game was slow throughout the entire first half. Both teams were struggling to get quality shots at the goal. UNLV attempted only five and UC Irvine only three.
The pace picked up in the second half with UNLV attempting seven shots and connecting on the two goals.
The first goal occurred in the 72nd minute on a LaChere Anglin assist to Ashleigh Shoughro.
Then senior forward Haley Partridge extended the lead in the 85th minute on a goal from a breakaway speeding down the middle of the field to score.
Rebel goalie Alicia Lugo posted four saves in the goal to earn her 14th career shutout. Irvine’s goalie, Erin Henry, was credited with five saves.
The game proved to be a good start for a team on a mission. Although the women’s team won the regular season conference championship last year, they were denied an invite to the NCAA tournament.
“We had a good season and pulled out some great victories,” head coach Kat Mertz said. “I think it is definitely going to give us motivation for this season. As we realized last year, winning the regular season is not enough to put you in the NCAA tournament and that is our ultimate goal.”
The team will be attempting to win a fifth consecutive Mountain West Conference title.
Senior defender Brie Kuhne will play a major role if the team wants to accomplish that goal.
This season the team is a bit inexperienced with Kuhne as one of only two seniors. Five new teammates are now in the starting lineup and there are 14 newcomers overall.
The team also suffered a huge loss after graduating Katie Carney, the Conference’s Co-Offensive Player of the Year.
However Kuhne is ready for the challenge and her presence on the field is huge. She has started 69 games in her three seasons at UNLV and was awarded as an All-MWC first-team selection last season.
“I don’t feel a lot of pressure on my shoulders this year. I just try and show the way for the younger girls and be a good example,” Kuhne said. “I have been a part of a winning team since I got here and we want to win conference again and also win the [Mountain West Conference] tournament.”
With competition getting stronger in the conference, coach Mertz knows there will be no easy games.
“We have a lot of new faces coming in and we have some quality players that are already here, so we have the talent,” Mertz said. “It’s just the matter of coming together as a team.”
The Rebels will host the UNLV Nike Classic in Las Vegas at Peter Johann Field. UNLV’s first test will be against rival Nevada, Reno in the first game on Friday at 1 pm. On Saturday afternoon they will play Pacific at 1 pm.