Enough has been made of the influx of first-year players on the women’s soccer squad. The freshmen are already road-tested and have proven that they can capitalize on home-field advantage.
With a scrappy Sacramento State squad searching for answers and a Northern Arizona team poised for school records this year, the Rebels will need to ride their hot start and avoid first half complacency to secure another two wins over the weekend.
Senior Jenn Wolfe, who may shatter the program’s all-time goal scoring record by season’s end, earned Mountain West Conference Offensive Player of the Week honors for her outstanding efforts last week.
Wolfe boasts two impressive conference-leading statistics: Through just four games this year, she already has four goals and nine total points.
Denali Murnan, who has taken a huge step forward this season, is a force that teams at the UNLV Nike Invitational last weekend couldn’t contain. Murnan has one goal and three assists this year, as her off-the-charts athleticism has proven to be an advantage.
The resilient bunch of freshmen have contributed substantially so far, as well.
Jordan Magnin and Brittney Gideon have both scored goals for the Rebels this season. Miranda Rawlings has launched five shots this year with three of them landing on-goal. The team’s freshmen are contributing, with considerable accuracy on every attempt.
Second-year player Susie Bernal had a phenomenal weekend at the Nike Invitational. Her flashy footwork was not only mind-blowing, but a testament to her work ethic. Bernal has a team-leading four assists and one goal this year.
The Rebels (3-1) will need every bit of offensive effort that Wolfe, Murnan, and Bernal can provide as they embark on a six-game road trip that will take them from Sacramento to Moscow (Idaho) and everywhere in between through Sept. 22.
It all begins on Friday, when the Rebels will take on host Sacramento State (1-2). The Hornets have yet to play a home game this year and will be looking to take every advantage they can as they seek to right the ship.
The Hornets have scored three goals all season, so if the Rebel defense can swarm the hapless Sacramento State offense, UNLV will likely pick up their fourth win. The key will be stopping sophomore Alyssa Anderson, who has two of the team’s three goals.
Gideon looked especially impressive over the weekend, and in practice last Wednesday she was always in the right place at the right time. Her instincts can’t be taught, and her efforts may be critical to the Rebels’ success this month.
Senior goalie Kylie Wassell has played every minute of the team’s games this season, and has allowed just six goals. Wassell is the steady, reliable presence that will keep the team afloat in every game they play this season.
The big test this weekend for UNLV will be Northern Arizona on Sunday. The Lumberjacks are 3-0-0 for the first time in program history and will be looking to preserve their historic early-season success.
The Rebels are 4-1-1 all-time against NAU, and defeated the Lumberjacks 2-0 when they met last year.
The key to the team’s success during the next six games will be consistency in the first half. The team has thus far appeared to be one that starts the game off sluggish before erupting in the second half on both ends of the field.
The Rebels have scored seven of their 11 goals this year in the second half. On the other end, they’ve allowed four of their opponents’ six goals in the first half. An equal effort in both halves will be key.