Rebels Climbs Back Toward National Scene In 2007
Jan. 2, 2008
LAS VEGAS - The UNLV men's soccer team took a big step toward getting back on the national soccer scene with the 2007 season. Mario Sanchez, in his second year as the Rebels' head coach and the 2007 MPSF Co-coach of the Year, Mario Sanchez, brought in 12 new players to the program (6 transfers, 5 freshmen, and 1 walk-on). The chemistry of the team had clearly changed and a new competitive attitude was emerging.
Sophomore center back, Andrew Friel, a transfer from Creighton University, and senior Mason Trafford anchored a solid back line throughout the year having played every minute of every game. Daniel Cruz, freshman forward from the U-17 National team and the MPSF Newcomer of the Year winner, added a tremendous amount of experience and excitement to the Rebels attack with 4 goals and 4 assists (sixth in the MPSF conference), while first team all-conference selection Lamar Neagle, provided consistency as he finished atop the Rebels in scoring and third in the conference (nine goals, two assists).
The Rebels finished the season 7-10-2 with a few key wins to spark the 2007 season and shine a bright light on the future with the young talented team. UNLV defeated the Atlantic Soccer Conference champs Florida Atlantic for the first win of the season down in Boca Raton by the score of 2-1. This immediately provided confidence as the team handed Cal Poly its first loss of the season, 4-3, in an exciting match at Peter Johann Memorial Field. The surge of confidence grew into a 5-1-1 stretch during the middle part of the season for the Rebels, which included wins over Missouri State, Cal State Bakersfield, and conference opponent Air Force. The middle season surge of experience led into an outstanding 2-1 victory over national ranked New Mexico in overtime at home on November 3rd.
The 2007 season marked the return of quality soccer and growing experience to the UNLV Rebels program. Team defense was the number one area for improvement established by Coach Sanchez and it became evident as the Rebels gave up the fewest goals in the program since the 2000 season. This level of focus resulted in the Rebels competing in every match this season, of which 14 were decided by just one goal. As a result, this led to the most wins in the program since 2003. That also marked the last time the Rebels scored as many goals in a single season. The Rebels will miss the experience and defending of Trafford, their senior captain and left center back. He was consistent throughout the year in his level of play and leadership on and off the field.
As the program develops though, the Rebels welcomed a host of young newcomers in addition to Friel and Cruz. Transfers John Crawley (junior) and Sal Ornelas (sophomore) helped the Rebels possess the ball through the middle of the field throughout the season with consistent play. Freshmen Stephen Sifuentes, Jaime Calvo, Ricky Abrego, Roland Swanson and Julian Harnash gained valuable minutes through the season and helped ignite the UNLV program.
The returning players from 2006 and the new young core of Rebels have provided Las Vegas with an exciting jolt of college soccer in 2007. This team welcomes the new recruits in the spring and fall of 2008 that Coach Sanchez brings in to UNLV to continue the progress and set UNLV back on the national scene as it once was in previous years. The players, coaching staff, alumni, and community are eager to see the program claim the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation and crack the Top 30 ranks in college soccer. We look forward to the 2008 season.... Go Rebels!