The tightly packed stadium was filled with a mix of screaming fans and parents cheering on their young stars. The sun brightened the field as the athletes battled to add another victory to their record.
With the Las Vegas Strip in clear view, the Rebels felt at home as they took advantage of that pride to carry them to a strong finish and defeat their opponent.
Being a Vegas native, freshman Hayden Prasad took extra joy in being able to finally play as a UNLV Rebel in front of his home city and his entire family.
A year and a half later, and his favorite part remains the feeling of being able to step onto the field with cleats and take that last deep breath before hearing the whistle.
Prasad was a four-year starter at Liberty High School, where he managed to rack up multiple goals in each season. His junior year, he scored nine goals with 30 assists for a total of 48 points for the team. During his senior year, he claimed attacker of the year with his high of 19 goals, 12 assists, and 50 points for the team.
After high school, he knew he was ready for the higher level and embraced being able to play for the UNLV Rebels in front of his family.
"I joined UNLV so I could be close to my family,” Prasad said. “It’s cool to be able to play on them, play on the team now and see how far I’ve come compared to just coming to the games as a fan. There’s no better feeling.”
Prasad realized a lifelong dream when he stepped onto the field wearing the black and red home jersey as a Rebel himself.
As a new member of the team, senior James Drye took Prasad under his wing, showing him the ropes of what it truly meant to be a Rebel. Drye, also a Vegas native, attended Arbor View High School. The two were able to bond over their Vegas-strong pride.
Prasad earned 15 appearances and started seven of those during his freshman year. In that season, he helped the team with two assists for two points.
As a native on the team, Prasad remarked how much fun it is to play against opponents with other Vegas locals on the team.
After surviving the COVID-19 pandemic and a semester of online classes, Prasad finally returned to the field for his sophomore season. The season was shortened to only 10 games before the WAC tournament.
The Rebels have been lucky enough to not have any of their games canceled this season. This has helped to make the season feel more normal for the players, despite the lack of games and three days of testing every week.
Even with the hardships the team has faced, they have remained undefeated at home for this season, with limited attendance filling the stands.
"When there’s not a lot of people there it kind of feels like a practice game so you’ve got to kind of like switch it onto kind of play harder without the crowd momentum,” Prasad said. “It’s good to keep winning these games.”
Prasad has yet to score a goal or assist in any of the games this year but has managed to stay in the top of the team for shooting percentage (0.667%) and putting pressure on the other teams.
He’s started in four games for the season but has played in every single game so far for a combined 354 playing minutes on the field.
The Rebels have two more games this season before competing in the WAC tournament. They plan on making their presence known as they battle for the championship.
"We need to improve on shooting. I think we’ve passed up a lot of chances. Every game we get chances, and we’re just barely winning 1-0,” Prasad said. “Every game it just feels like we’re blowing chances, me included.”
Going into next season, Prasad hopes to play more games and have more chances to make a bigger impact on the team. The Rebels look forward to having a regular season with more than 10 games at hand.
Prasad will play for the Rebels in tomorrow’s game on the road against San Jose State and again on Saturday, April 10 for the last home game of the season. Both games are set to kick off at 7 pm.