UNLV looking to sweep season series with Bakersfield
A little over two weeks ago, the UNLV men’s soccer program was fighting for the right to be called the worst team in the Western Athletic Conference.
The Rebels’ inability to finish around the net in addition to their lackadaisical defensive prowess culminated in one of the worst seasons head coach Rich Ryerson has had in his tenure at UNLV.
Fast forward to Thursday, and the Rebels are riding higher than Snoop Dogg hot-boxing a ‘76 Chevelle.
With a current five-game unbeaten streak and all the confidence in the world, UNLV goes into its final showdown of the season with a No. 2 seed
In order to obtain that, the Rebels will have to defeat CSU-Bakersfield on Saturday at 7 p.m., who is currently in a tie for second place with UNLV.
“We’re in a good spot,” Ryerson said. “There’s no arrogance but we know bottom line that we just have to be more intense than them.”
The first meeting between these two teams happened on Oct. 6 at Peter Johann Memorial Field. The game was UNLV’s conference home opener and went in favor of the Rebels in the form of a 2-0 victory.
Salvador Bernal and Jason Khamvongsa both netted goals for UNLV.
“This game will be different than the conference opener,” Bernal said. “It’s going to be a tough game for second place.”
That was Bernal’s first goal of the season.
“Scoring that first goal was the toughest one,” he said. “Scoring that first one and getting it out of the way makes all the other goals and assists easier.”
That game, however, feels like a lifetime ago.
The Rebels and Roadrunners have gone different paths in getting to this point, but both teams realize the significance of what this match may mean to their postseason dreams.
“We need our guys to be motivated to play whoever it is we are about to play,” Ryerson said. “I think they are and I think we’ll get the results we need.”
Bakersfield comes into the competition boasting one of the most well-rounded offenses in the conference. Their 24 total goals on the season come from nine of their 11 starters. With so many weapons, the Roadrunners are a tough matchup defensively.
Bakersfield also has a goalie with a renewed sense of confidence. Anthony Perez, benched for poor performance towards the latter-half of the season, has regained his starting position.
For UNLV, the wherewithal and bravado that has led them to this unbeaten stretch must carry over into this match. The Rebels won their first road game of the season against Grand Canyon on Nov. 3 and look to finish their season with a road victory for the first time in a decade.
With the win, UNLV will finish the season not only with its most wins during Ryerson’s career as coach, but also the most wins since the 2008-2009 season.
“It will get us a lot of momentum to get this win,” Ryerson said. “Having that sixth game of being unbeaten will give us a lot of momentum going into the tournament and that’s what we need.”