Hat Trick Bernal|
Aug. 31, 2014 Salvador Bernal posted his first career hat trick, and then capped off his afternoon by assisting on the game-winning score with 12 minutes left to rally UNLV men's soccer to a 4-3 victory at Bradley on Sunday afternoon in the final game of the Hotels at Grand Prairie Classic at Shea Stadium. The Rebels captured the tournament title thanks to their 2-0 record, which is also their first 2-0 start to the season since 2008, and only second in the past 12 years. UNLV snapped the Braves' six-game unbeaten streak in their home classic, as they dropped to 1-1 on the season.
"We've been working hard the past five years to get to this point, and to start out at 2-0, and for it to come on the road, is a great result of that hard work," said UNLV head coach Rich Ryerson. "I was impressed how we did not back down after falling behind early. Our players were steadfast in their play and their faith in their teammates to rally for the lead, and then to score the game-winner after Bradley tied it."
Bernal's three goals give him the first hat trick by a Rebel since Sept. 23, 2001, when Alex Hernandez scored three times in a 6-1 win over Connecticut. It was also the 18th hat trick in UNLV history. Bernal, the tournament MVP, became the first-ever player to record a hat trick against Bradley on their home field, while his seven total points is the second most ever by an opponent against the Braves.
"Sal has been such an integral part of our attack the last three years, and a senior today he really stepped up and showed what he was capable of," said Ryerson.
The Rebels pulled off the come-from-behind victory after the Braves took a quick 2-0 lead less then 19 minutes into the contest. Andrew Brown scored the game's first goal when he collected a loose ball at the top of the box and scored on a shot to the top of the goal. Cody Lofgren and Christian Okeke assisted on the goal, in the seventh minute for a 1-0 lead. Okeke contributed to the next goal as well, when his shot his the post and came out to Jason Lesch, who placed it back into the net for a 2-0 edge in the 19th minute.
UNLV would not back down, and first got on the scoreboard in the 35th minute. On a counter-attack, Kevin Partida fed the ball to Bernal who scored to the right post, making the score 2-1. The Rebels then drew a penalty kick in the 42nd minute, and Bernal would convert the try for his second goal, knotting the game at 2-2. That would be the halftime score as well, and UNLV went in with a 10-9 edge on shots.
Another penalty kick for the Rebels led to their first lead of the game. This time Bradley goalkeeper Shay Niemeyer stopped Bernal's attempt, but Bernal was able to race in and kick the rebound back into the goal for the score, his third of the day. That put UNLV ahead 4-3 in the 49th minute. Just two minutes late though the Braves would tie the score when Grant Bell headed in a shot off a header pass by Jacob Taylor following a throw-in from Lofgren. That made the score 3-3 in the 51st minute.
The score would remain tied at 3-3 for the next 28 minutes of the game. Though shots over the second half were down from the first, UNLV would take a total of seven past halftime to five for the Braves. The Rebels weren't tested as much in the second stanza though, with goalkeeper Ryan Harding posted just one save while giving up only the one goal past halftime. The game was decided on a set piece in the 79th minute after UNLV earned a corner kick. Bernal took the kick and sent a ball into the box, where it was headed in by defender Kyle Mellies for the game-winner, putting the Rebs ahead 4-3.
UNLV's final shot advantage was 17-14, while shots on goal were seven for both teams. Harding finished with four saves in the net, and Niemeyer posted three for the Braves. UNLV also held a 6-3 edge on corner kicks. Joining Bernal on the all-tournament team was Mellies, Connor Coletti and Irvin Somera.
The Rebels will now return home for a four-game home stand, beginning with next weekend's Johann Memorial Classic. First up will be a Friday, Sept. 5 contest at 7 pm against IPFW, following by a Sunday, Sept. 7 game against Howard at 1 pm, with all games played at Peter Johann Memorial Field.