2007 Year In Review
Jan. 31, 2008
LAS VEGAS - 2007 was a record-setting, award-filled, championship season for the UNLV women's soccer team. The Rebels ended the year with an 11-5-5 mark, tying a team record for fewest losses in a season, and were undefeated at home.
For the fourth straight year UNLV captured a Mountain West Conference trophy. After winning the MWC Tournament in both of the previous two seasons, 2007 marked the second time in school history that the Rebels were named MWC regular season champs. Despite being picked to finish third in conference, they once again exceeded outside expectation and ended up in the top spot with an impressive 5-1-1 record in conference play.
In her third season at the helm, head coach Kat Mertz welcomed nine newcomers to a returning squad that included nine starters from the 2006 season. The combination of experience and young talent provided confidence for the Rebels going into the start of the season. They opened up at home with wins against Cal State Fullerton and Arizona State to claim the UNLV Adidas Classic title and give the fans in Las Vegas a taste of what was to come. The Rebels would go on to win seven home games and tie three which meant for the first time in school history the team was unbeaten at Peter Johann Memorial Field. Much of that was thanks to the defensive work of the team which only gave up three goals at home all season, as well as sophomore goalkeeper Alicia Lugo who earned a UNLV single season record 11 shutouts. Her 0.61 goals against average ranked second in the MWC and 22nd nationally.
In 2006 the Rebels won their first contest over a nationally ranked opponent when they took down Pepperdine in an exciting overtime game in Las Vegas. This season the team welcomed in the Washington State Cougars who came into the September 21 match ranked in all three of the top national polls, as high as 11th by Soccer America and 23rd and 24th by Soccer Buzz and the NSCAA respectively. Freshman Kristen Shim put away a second-half goal to give the Rebels a 1-0 victory, the second-ever win over a top-25 team. Not only were UNLV's opponents getting national attention this season but so were the Rebels as they found themselves receiving votes for the NSCAA Top-25 national rankings for the week of November 6. During the course of the season UNLV was in many of the regional rankings, at one point as high as eighth in the NSCAA West Region and 11th in Soccer Buzz.
Heading into Mountain West Conference play, the squad was riding a two-game unbeaten streak which eventually turned into the longest streak in school history. First the Rebels battled Utah to a 2-2 tie in the nationally televised match before knocking off San Diego State, New Mexico, TCU and Air Force. Wyoming ended the seven-game unbeaten streak when they handed UNLV their only loss in conference play, but the Rebels were prepared to bounce back when they faced #24 BYU in the last regular season game to determine the MWC champion. Although the BYU Cougars had never lost to the Rebels coming into the November 2nd match up, it did not seem to matter to senior forward Katie Carney who set a new UNLV record with her 10th career game winner and helped the Rebels claim the regular season title.
The Rebels headed out to the MWC Tournament in Provo and soon earned more recognition for their performance at the conference banquet. For guiding the team to a the regular season crown, Mertz was selected as the MWC Coach of the Year. Carney, who had 10 of her 20 regular season points during conference play, was also honored by being named Co-Offensive Player of the Year. Carney was placed on the All-MWC first team along with center back and co-captain Brie Kuhne and fellow co-captain in the midfield Erica Jensen. Senior forward Jessica Destito was also named to the All-MWC second team. These awards came in addition to the honors garnered from the MWC throughout the season. Carney and Lugo were both two-time recipients of MWC Player of the Week honors and Dani Morin earned the same honor with her work in the back line on September 24. Not only did the MWC take note of the individual efforts of these team members, but so did the nation. Carney, Lugo and Morin were named to Soccer America's National Team of the Week at different points in the season and Lugo and Morin were also on the National Team of the Week for Soccer Buzz during 2007.
The Rebels had a bye in the first round and then faced Utah in the MWC Tournament semi-final, a rematch of the 2006 championship game. This time there would be no tie and no penalty kicks as Jessica Destito scored twice to lead UNLV to a 2-1 victory over the Utes. Up next was the tournament host BYU who the Rebels had taken down just a week a before. Despite a hard fought effort the Rebels fell just short of a third-straight MWC Tournament title in the 2-1 loss. None the less Destito, Kuhne and Lugo all earned spots on the All-Tournament team.
Even with the regular season crown and a number of big wins along the way, the Rebels were left out of the NCAA tournament for the first time in four years. The 2007 team ended the season with numerous records and another MWC championship along with a debt of gratitude to the senior class. Carney finished her career as the all-time assist leader, third all-time in points and goals and was the team's leading scorer in each of her four seasons. In addition she became the first Rebel to ever receive national academic honors. Carney was named to the NSCAA and Soccer Buzz all-region teams and named to the NSCAA Scholar All-American Third Team this postseason. Destito and O'Harrow joined Carney as four-time MWC conference champions, a feat never before accomplished by any UNLV athlete in any sport. Both Jensen and Armani Rice captured three titles since transferring in 2005 and Monica Roach got one this year in her only season at UNLV.
Coach Mertz and the Rebels look forward to more success in 2008. The team will be welcoming in another strong class of student athletes soon and will return seven starters in the quest for a fifth consecutive conference championship and more success on the national stage.