Sept. 14, 2000
The UNLV men's soccer team will kick off its second season in the Mountain Pacific Sports Federation this fall. The Rebels will look to their seven returning starters, their bench and their class of new recruits to help improve on the 7-11 record of last season.
Such improvement will be no easy task in one of the top soccer leagues in the West, but head coach Barry Barto believes the Rebels will be up to the challenge.
"We've been playing tough schedules forever," says Barto, who enters his 19th season at UNLV and 25th overall. "This is a strong conference and tough opponents will only make us better."
Last year UNLV made the transition from the Western Athletic Conference to the MPSF. Despite a seventh-place finish in the Pacific Division, the Rebels played close with the best teams in the league and the best in the country. They will build on that experience for success in 2000.
The unquestioned leader of the team this season will be junior Jason Melendez. A second team All-MPSF selection in '99, Melendez led the Rebels in scoring, goals, assists, and shots for a second straight season. As a good attacker with a quick shot, Melendez is bidding to follow in the footsteps of former Rebels David Cohen and Robbie Ryerson as the only men to lead UNLV in scoring for three straight seasons. Cohen and Ryerson are the school's top two all-time scorers and both are in the Hall of Fame.
"Melendez had another great season and an excellent spring," Barto said. "He just keeps getting better and better. He is one of the best players that I have ever seen in the West."
Senior Ryan Bindrup is another Rebel to watch this season. Bindrup played in all 18 games last season in both forward and midfield positions and is a mature fifth-year senior who does well up front or helping out on defense. A tall target that fights for air balls, Bindrup definitely adds a degree of veteran leadership to the squad.
Additional firepower up front will come from sophomore forward Tuomas Talvio. An extremely speedy forward who has adapted well to college soccer, Talvio started 16 games and played in all 18 during his freshman season. With five goals, four assists and 14 points to his credit last season, he was the second leading scorer on the squad and will look for his goal production to increase in 2000.
Another player who excels in multiple positions is junior Tyler Turchi, who split time between forward and midfield last year and will again provide consistency wherever needed. With a tremendous work ethic, Turchi's driving efforts led him to tie for the team's shot percentage last season, scoring two goals--one a game winner.
The Rebels have depth at the midfield this season, with junior Andrew Hooker returning after starting every game last season. Hooker was most impressive in leading the Rebels to a victory over Air Force in the UNM Invitational, scoring the game-winner, 1-0. Coach Barto says that Hooker was also named the tournament's Best Offensive Player.
"Andrew is a 90-minute player and does a lot of things that go unnoticed," Barto said. "You don't find his name in all the statistical categories, but he is so integral to what is happening. He does all the little things well and runs forever."
Junior transfer Brent Storrs was one of the Rebel's most consistent players last season. Primarily a defensive midfielder, Storrs is a capable ball handler and distributor who can score well.
"Brent can play a few positions," Barto said. "He had great games last year and he is a big game player. He can fill the voids at outside midfielder, and sweeper. He is a pivotal member of our team."
Rounding out the midfield will be sophomores Reggie Bolden and Ryan Cariss. Named the UNLV Coors Soccer Classic Best Defensive Player in 1999, Bolden's quick, defensive play should be a continued asset to the Rebel midfield. He is a fearless player who broke into the starting lineup six games into the season and should hold that starting position this year.
"Reggie's improved athleticism brings a lot to the table. He is a left side player, which is a great advantage to us," said Barto.
Cariss came on strong as a freshman, scoring three goals last season and added speed and depth to the Rebel midfield. He is an exciting player, who is largely responsible for UNLV's defeat of Cal State Northridge last year, scoring two of his goals in the match.
Junior Leo Cruz and senior Jacob Adams should see increased action as the season gets under way. Cruz will provide skill as a left sided player while Adams applies his technical skills at both midfield and forward positions. Because of a recent knee injury, Adams will see limited play to begin the season.
Although UNLV lost the talents of both Geoff Barto and Todd Roberts on the defensive end of the field this season, the Rebels will count on the bench players and newcomers to make an immediate impact. The only starter to return from last year's defensive line is sophomore Kevin Lunkwitz.
Lunkwitz earned a spot in the starting lineup during the Coors Soccer Classic last season and held the position. Still learning the game at the D-I level, Lunkwitz showed some flashes of exceptional play during his freshman year and will be counted on to bolster a young and improving defensive line.
Matt Thompson will be moving to complement the defense and offer technical skills for the team in that position. Playing in 15 matches last season, Thompson was frequently used in a set-up role and led the team with four assists. He scored perhaps the most exciting goal of the '99 season, driving a hard shot off the keeper's hands to lead UNLV to a 4-3 upset over No. 18 Gonzaga.
"We are looking for Matt to have a big year," Barto said. "A senior with his talent should be touching the ball frequently during the games."
Kevin Pauls is one of two high school players who signed letters of intent with UNLV last spring. A native of Kentfield, Calif., Pauls is a versatile player who might find the most minutes bolstering a thin defensive line.
Senior Robert Ackah will be the only returning Rebel goalkeeper for the 2000 season. As a junior, Ackah saw plenty of playing time, posting one shutout to defeat Air Force, and finishing 10th in the MPSF with 31 saves.
Ackah will face some competition for the starting position, however, from a pair of newcomers. Scott Winstead, a transfer from St. John's University, will add consistency and depth at the keeper position. Freshman recruit Derek Schoville, of Chandler Ariz., will be a candidate to redshirt with the depth at the position, but is a capable keeper and could be called upon if necessary.
"For the moment, we will flip-flop Winstead and Ackah at keeper each game until one completely falls apart or one has incredible games," Barto said.
Barto describes the freshmen coming in this year as "very solid." From Indio, Calif., Alejandro Hernandez is one of the most technical players, who can dribble, pass and shoot very well. With his great speed, Hernandez is an exciting player to watch and Barto plans to play him at midfield to utilize his speed and explosiveness toward the goal and on defense.
Ryan Cochrane comes to UNLV to play as either a midfielder or a forward. From Woodinville, Wash., Cochrane has a great work ethic and can create good chances on goal.
"This is a kid who has a lot of blue-collar skills as well as polished skills, he makes defenders work to get the ball away from him," Barto said.
The defensive position will get a boost from freshman K.C. Nordfors of Bountiful, Utah. A tall, strong player, Nordfors has excellent in-air ability and is one of the most athletic players on the team. He is expected to play the forward position as well as creating opportunities for goals.
Freshmen Nader Jazayeri, from Lake Forest, Calif., and Michael Meek, from San Juan Capistrano, Calif., will both be serving as midfielders.
"Both of these players come from a quality program (West Coast Soccer). They have an understanding of the game, a great work ethic and are poised at their positions," said Barto.
As in most seasons, UNLV will face a tough schedule with matches against many of the top clubs in the West and around the country. Four in-season tournaments dominate the non-conference schedule.
Among the biggest schools invading Peter Johann Memorial Field this year are Ohio State, Notre Dame, Loyola Marymount and Louisville. The Rebels will face former WAC rivals Southern Methodist and Tulsa at the SMU Invitational in mid-September, and will also compete in a tough road match against San Diego, a top-25 team from a year ago.
The MPSF is slightly less formidable with the departures of Pac-10 powers UCLA, Washington, Oregon State, California and Stanford. (The Pac-10 will sponsor men's soccer this year.) However, UNLV will still face a rigorous Pacific Division slate, with games against Cal State Fullerton, UC Santa Barbara and New Mexico.
Starting with an exhibition game on Aug. 26 at the Peter Johann Memorial Field, the season will open with the Rebels hosting two consecutive tournaments on their home field. After facing Ohio State on Sept. 1st and Notre Dame on Sept. 3 in the UNLV Fila/Snickers Rebel Classic, the Rebels will meet Loyola Marymount on Sept. 8 and Grand Canyon on Sept. 10 in the Coors Classic Tournament.
Following away matches against SMU and Tulsa, the Rebels will face Cal Poly at home on Sept. 22 and at San Diego on the 24. Home fans can enjoy the Coors Light Invitational Sept. 29 Ð Oct. 1 as the Rebels face Drury and Louisville.
On Oct. 6 and 8, the Rebels will play against such competitive MPSF teams as UC Santa Barbara and Cal State Northridge. After meeting Air Force and Alabama A&M in mid-October, the Rebels will again face such challenging California schools as Cal State Fullerton, UC Irvine and San Diego state in away matches. The regular season ends at home as the Rebels go up against New Mexico on Nov. 5.