Four games into their six-game road tour, the Rebels have rallied, reshuffled their roster and proven that they will be contenders once again in a very difficult Mountain West Conference.
UNLV (5-2-1) has battled through two double overtime games and one overtime match—all on the road—and came out of those three games with two wins and a tie.
“They’re very resilient,” head coach Michael Coll said. “It says a lot about who we are. It says when the chips are down, we’re going to fight. We’re going to back each other up and do whatever we can to get the results.”
The Rebels have been ravaged by injuries all season long, yet they continue producing wins against formidable competition.
With veteran stalwarts Courtney Botelho, Denali Murnan, Sam Weber and others playing through injuries this season, it’s been the team’s surprising depth that has kept them afloat.
“Our injury situation is overwhelming,” Coll said. “We have a lot of players out right now, so the resiliency factor is right there at the top of who these kids are.”
The Rebels will hope to ride the momentum from junior Kristen Sankey’s golden goal in the final minute of UNLV’s 1-0 double overtime win over Idaho, as they will play Northern Colorado on Friday and Colorado on Sunday to wrap up their six-game roadtrip.
Northern Colorado is a meager 2-3-1 this year and have scored six goals and allowed 10 on the year. If the Rebels hope to stay tied with last year’s total of just two road losses, they will need to recapture the offensive firepower they enjoyed earlier this season.
“We’ve won three games on the road this year. Any win on the road is great, but to win 3 on the road so far — we’re not even at the halfway point of the season — it’s huge,” Coll said. “Road games don’t scare us.”
Perhaps the toughest test for UNLV this season will be Sunday’s matchup with Pac-12 powerhouse Colorado, who boasts a 6-1 overall record and a perfect 3-0 record at home.
Working to their advantage, however, has been that every game they’ve played has either been in Denver or Boulder, Colorado. While the Buffaloes have had no problem scoring at will this season, they’ve likely not yet faced a team as defensively sound as UNLV.
“We have to be prepared. We’re not going to have the ball as much as we’d like to have the ball against a Pac-12 team on their turf,” Coll said. “We expect the game to be a very fast paced match.”
According to Coll, the Rebels will need to continue their stellar defensive efforts, and improve offensively, to escape Colorado with two wins and their respectable road record in tact.
“I think you’re going to see much of the same from us,” Coll said. “Hopefully we’ll be moving clearly towards a shutout, no goals against, because we’ve done well defensively. I’m excited to create chances and get goals again.”
Though the Rebels started the year off with 11 goals in their first four games, they haven’t recorded a multi-goal game in their past four matches. With the team’s reserves and freshmen stepping up in crunch time, Coll believes the Rebels are poised for success.
“We want to be scoring multiple goals in every game,” Coll said. We haven’t been scoring multiple goals in our last few games, so I think we want to come out firing offensively and continue more of the same defensively.”