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Defending Mountain West Champions Kick Off 2017 Campaign Friday

Aug. 17, 2017

LAS VEGAS ( - UNLV women's soccer will open its 2017 season this weekend, hosting the UNLV Invitational at Peter Johann Memorial Field. Weber State and Wright State will kick off the tournament with a 4 p.m match Friday, August 18, followed by the Rebels facing Drake in the night game scheduled for 7 p.m. The early game on Sunday, August 20 will feature Drake and Weber State with UNLV and Wright State wrapping up the weekend at 1:30 p.m.
Drake (0-0) at UNLV (0-0)
Friday, Aug. 18 
7 p.m. | Peter Johann Memorial Field | Las Vegas
Drake leads the all-time series 1-0
Wright State (0-0) at UNLV (0-0)
Sunday, Aug. 20 
7 p.m. | Peter Johann Memorial Field | Las Vegas
First meeting between the programs
Live Stats  

The Rebels are coming off one of, if not the best season in program history after capturing a conference regular season and tournament title in the same year for the first time in program history, resulting in the team's first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2006. The Scarlet & Gray also rewrote the Rebel record books as the 2016 squad set new school single-season marks for most wins (16), goals (51) and assists (50) in addition to placing a record nine players on Mountain West All-Conference teams. After the incredible regular season, it was no surprise UNLV swept the conference individual awards with the now-departed Lily Sender earning Offensive Player of the Year honors, senior Chidera Akubuilo being named the Defensive Player of the Year Chris Shaw getting tabbed the league's Coach of the Year.

The Rebels will have to retool after losing 11 seniors to graduation, but have a core group of experienced returners, led by Akubuilo, that can help the 12 newcomers get acclimated. With last year in the rearview mirror, Shaw is looking forward to the new year and sees talent up and down his roster.

"This is a very talented group of players," said Shaw. "They have the ability to be successful and compete at a high level."

Shaw's thoughts on each position group:

Goalkeepers: "With Jordan Sallee (51 career starts, 196 saves) returning for her senior year, this is definitely a position where we have a lot of experience and ability. We also have Elly Reynada and Taylor Heil that will both compete to push Jordan for the top spot."

Defenders: "The back line will return starters Chidera Akubuilo (MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List) and Paige Almendariz (All-Newcomer team, 22 starts, three assists). We will also look to upperclassmen Isabella Myers, Raevyn Bailey, Michaela Kelsey and Carolyn Grajada to compete for minutes. Newcomers Troi Holliman and Jozee De Cunzo will also look to push for time in the back line. Overall, this defense has all the necessary tools to be an effective unit and that will make it very difficult for the opposition to break us down."

Midfielders: "This is by far the deepest the program has been in the midfield since I have been here. We have all-conference performer Sophia Cortes (23 starts, four goals, six assists) returning along with Katie Ballou (nine starts, four goals, one assists before injury ended her season), Courtney Anderson (19 games played in 2016) and Georgia Kingman (12 starts, four assists, one goal) that all played significant minutes in the fall. In addition, redshirt freshman Ariana Reyes and newcomers Paulina Senices, Hannah Harrison, Citlalli Alonso, and Alyssa Granados will all add depth to a talented midfield."

Forwards: "Probably the position with the most question after losing so many talented forwards last season, with only one player that played significant minutes returning in Michaela Morris (20 games played, five goals). However, transfers Amanda Galbraith and Caitlyn Kreutz will provide valuable fire power and experience to the front line, while redshirt junior Kaila Brinkman will also provide some valuable minutes after sitting out last season. Lauren Sisneros, Erykah Browne, Robin Pollard, and Franchelle Cabral-DeLaCruz will all be looking to contribute to the attack as well."

  • UNLV is opening the season at home for the fifth time in the last seven years and 12th time since the program's first year in 1998.
  • The Rebels were picked to finish third in the Mountain West preseason coaches poll, their highest spot in the poll since 2013. San Diego State and San Jose State were picked to finish one-two, but UNLV's five first-place votes were the most of any school.
  • Chris Shaw enters his fourth year with a 36-22-5 overall record
  • In 2016, Shaw won his first Mountain West Coach of the Year award and the program's third overall COY honor
  • The Rebels return the reigning Mountain West Defensive Player of the Year in Akubuilo, two All-Conference First Team selections in Akubuilo and Cortes, a second team selection in Sallee and two Mountain West All-Newcomer team selections in Almendariz and Kingman
  • Akubuilo has collected several preseason honors. She became the first Rebel to be named to the MAC Hermann Trophy Watch List, the most prestigious award in collegiate soccer. She was also named to's Women's DI Best XI Third Team and is ranked No. 23 on the site's Women's Collegiate Top 100. 
  • Jordan Sallee is ranked No. 66 overall and the No. 9 senior keeper on Everybody Soccer, a site dedicated to collegiate goalkeepers
  • Freshman Erykah Browne was a member of El Salvador U20 team this summer, playing in a World Cup qualifying tournament in Nicaragua in June. 



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