Penalty shootout ends conference tourney run
The Rebels’ miraculous run towards the end of their season is over.
The men’s soccer team (7-10-2 overall, 5-4-2 WAC), who came in unbeaten in five of its last six matches, lost 9-8 in a penalty shootout against San Jose State on Thursday in the first round of the Western Athletic Conference Tournament.
The game began with the Rebels playing catch-up from the get-go. The Spartans (4-12-4, 3-6-1) started the scoring early, grabbing a 1-0 lead in only the third minute of play on a goal by Rory Knibbs.
In the 18th minute, senior Joaquin Rivas tied the game for UNLV after he sent a penalty kick into the back of the net.
Both teams struggled offensively in the second half. San Jose State couldn’t solve the puzzle that was the Rebels’ defense, but UNLV once again was inconsistent in scoring. The Rebels outshot the Spartans 16-7.
In the 81st minute, Frankie Beauchamp scored on a penalty kick that put the Spartans up 2-1 with under 10 minutes to play. But at the 87:51 mark, Irvin Somera and Salvador Bernal connected on UNLV’s biggest play of the season.
Bernal dribbled down the right side of the field and sent a cross into the penalty box. Somera was at the right place at the right time and delivered the game-tying goal from eight yards out to send the match into overtime.
Only five shots were attempted in both 10-minute overtime periods, and neither team’s offense got in position to finish at the net. It was then on to a penalty shootout.
Both teams would convert on four of their first five attempts, leading to a sudden-death round of penalty kicks in which both teams again would have five attempts. The first three attempts by both UNLV and San Jose State were made.
The Rebels’ fourth attempt, taken by Kyle Mellies, was saved by San Jose State goalkeeper Emmanuel Espinoza who had six saves for the match.
San Jose State’s Jamison Loveless sent his penalty kick past UNLV goalkeeper Ryan Harding and sent the Spartans to the second round of the conference tournament, ending UNLV’s season.
The Rebels finished the match with another enormous edge in shots and corner kicks (11-2).
The season came to a bittersweet end for the Rebels. UNLV had its most wins under head coach Rich Ryerson in a season, but failed to make a run in the conference tournament.
The Rebels do bring back a veteran squad next season, along with larger expectations.