UNLV prepares for the conference tournament
After a tough loss against Cal State Bakersfield on Nov. 8, the UNLV men’s soccer team (7-10-1 overall, 5-4-1 WAC) heads into the Western Athletic Conference tournament as the No. 3 seed.
With that, comes a lot of optimism.
The Rebels had four players named to the All-WAC team over the weekend. The list is highlighted by first-team selection Salvador Bernal, followed by Kyle Mellies, Rodrigo Fuentes and Ryan Harding named to the second team.
Bernal (2011-12) becomes the third player in program history to be named first-team All Conference three straight years, joining Rod Dyanchenko (2003-2005) and Lamar Neagle (2006-2008). UNLV’s captain finished third in the WAC with five assists.
For Mellies, Fuentes and Harding, it is their first time earning all-conference honors. Mellies has been UNLV’s premier defender this season, with the Rebels posting a 1.52 Goals Against Average while he’s on the field.
Fuentes led the team in both points (17) and goals (six). The points mark is good enough for third in the conference, while he sits tied for fifth in goals.
Despite missing the first five games of the year, Harding was honored by the committee after a career year. Not only did Harding lead the All-WAC with a 1.17 GAA, he also tied the league lead for shutouts in a season with four.
While the accolades are a nice way to end the regular season, coach Rich Ryerson and his team have a lot more work to do if they want to end this season strong. The Rebels have a date with San Jose State in Colorado Springs, Colo. in the first round of the tournament.
For UNLV, it is the third matchup with SJSU this season, having split the first two. Each of the two games against the Spartans were physical and chippy, and the Rebels are ready for their direct style of play.
However, there will be another element both teams will have to worry about: elevation. Playing at high elevation causes players to get short-winded, which could lead to a stiff, lackadaisical match. Lucky for UNLV, the elements won’t be as foreign to them, having played a recent game at Air Force on Nov. 1.
To secure the victory, UNLV will need help from their four horsemen, as well as a collective, 60-minute effort from the team. There’s no room for error at this point in the season, and coach Ryerson understands that.
When the Rebels and Spartans clash Friday either the gift of a prolonged season comes, or early mornings on the golf course.