UNLV men’s soccer led the first half of the game against UTRGV, but couldn’t keep up with their three goals in the second half, beating the Rebels 1-3 Saturday afternoon.
The Rebels managed to prevent the home team from scoring any points in the first half, as they took the early 1-0 lead with 20 minutes left on the clock. Valentin Hafner headed the ball into the net, off of a pass from Chilo Sanchez. Four out of the five goals from UNLV this season are from newcomers, as this was Hafner’s first career goal with the Rebels with Sanchez’s first career assist.
"We knew they were good, we’ve always had great games against them. I don’t think I underestimated how they were. I think we had a great game planned in place for that first half, and the wind was a great factor,” Head Coach Rich Ryerson said. “We were going against the wind in the first half and we thought that if we could get out of the first half and we got a goal so I was very confident going into the second half with the wind at our backs.”
Their confidence quickly dropped, after William Akio scored off of a penalty kick to tie the game. UNLV’s mindset and focus quickly deteriorated, as Akio made another goal to give Rio Grande Valley a 2-1 lead.
After the Vaqueros scored those two goals, the Rebels fell into the momentum of chasing the game instead of controlling. This psychological shift for the team allowed another goal to slip past Rebels goalkeeper, Lukas Betz.
Betz finished the game with four saves in the net for UNLV, while UTRGV finished with a 13-6 edge on shots, and 7 shots on goal, to the Rebels’ 4.
"It’s a good team we played today with a really tough result to swallow, but at the same time we gotta learn, grow, and become better coming into next week,” Coach Ryerson said. “It’s been a full day of travel, so we want to make sure that the first thing we do is get [the team] rested and recovered to get the bodies physically right again and get ramped up to, which I would say is one of our greater competitors, Utah Valley.”
UNLV returns to Las Vegas to host a pair of games at Johann Memorial Field. The first game begins Friday night with a 7 p.m. kickoff against Utah Valley, followed by a rescheduled competition with California Baptist on Monday at 1 p.m.