UNLV Opens 2016 Season on the Road at UTRGV Invitational|
Aug. 18, 2016
LAS VEGAS (UNLVRebels.com) - UNLV women's soccer begins the 2016 season on the road this weekend at the University of Texas- Rio Grande Valley (UTRGV) Invitational at the UTRGV Soccer and Track and Field Complex in Edinburg, Texas. The Rebels will face Fairleigh Dickinson at 2 p.m. PT on Friday, August 19, then wrap up their opening weekend against Texas A&M-Corpus Christi on Sunday at 11 a.m. PT. This is the first time since 2013 UNLV will start the season away from its home field.
Under head coach Chris Shaw, who is entering his third year at the helm, the Rebels finished the 2015 campaign 11-10-0 and are returning a core group of seniors that Shaw anticipates will make a strong impact in their final season. "We are very excited about the upcoming season because of the leadership on our squad," said Shaw. "These seniors are hungry to finish their careers on a high note and their talent and experience will make this a season to remember."
Among the top returning players are the senior duo of forward Susie Bernal and midfielder Jordan Magnin. Bernal, who returned from an ACL inury in 2015, and Magnin combined for five goals and 11 assists a year ago, with Magnin's eight assists setting a new UNLV women's soccer single-season record. Between them, the pair have logged 103 starts during their career and are primed to have stellar final seasons and help the team find success in 2016.
Overall, each position group features both experienced returners and talented newcomers, a combination that should flourish on the field this year. A breakdown by position group:
Shaw refers to his forwards as his "deepest position group" will 11 different players competing for spots on the front line. Along with Bernal, fellow seniors Dakota Blazak, Britney Gideon, Gabriele Vaquez, Izzy Delgado and Lily Sender should all play a contributing role in the attack. Says Shaw, "With the talent that we have in the front three, there is no doubt we will score our fair share of goals this season." He adds, "I have never worked with a team where I had so many attacking players at my disposal."
Led by Magnin and Sophia Cortes, Shaw has two anchors in the midfield who both saw great success on the field in 2015. Joining Magnin and Cortes is Courtney Anderson, who redshirted last year, and a talented trio of newcomers in Katie Ballou, Ariana Reyes and Georgia Kingman. "I think we have great balance in the midfield and all of our players are very comfortable with the ball," said Shaw. "That is vital for our style of play."
A big advantage for this group is the return of their two starting central defenders from 2015, Chidera Akbuilo and Haley Wilson. Akbuilo and Wilson, coupled with Bella Myers and Kendal Sandoval, both returners who saw significant minutes a year ago, makes this position group strong heading into the new campaign. Newcomers Paige Almendariz and Jordan Harden are also competing for spots in the starting lineup as true freshmen.
The Rebels have not one but two experienced keepers anchoring the net in 2016. Juniors Jordan Sallee and Jessie Clark have both played significant minutes over the past two years. Sallee and Clark started 11 and 10 games, respectively, a year ago and give the Rebels a strong presence protecting the goal, no matter who Shaw sends out. This group also includes Emily Casale, Kylee Ojers and Taylor Heil, who push this group to constantly improve and become stronger.