After moving around every year for high school, Miguel Duenas Jr. returned to his hometown, Las Vegas, to join UNLV’s soccer team as a goalie. Duenas first started playing soccer at 10 years old. He stuck with the sport and continues to work hard every single day to get to where he is now.
Duenas attended Canyon Springs for his freshman year of high school in Vegas, before transferring to play soccer in Mexico for a year. He spent his junior year at Beaverton High School in Portland, OR, before finally coming home for his senior year to compete once again for Canyon Springs.
"High School was a breeze for me. Being in those high levels, like when I went to Mexico and what I experienced in Portland- it was all a little bit different,” Duenas said. “I mean, you know, it prepares you for whatever's next after your four years of playing and it's honestly a big level and a big step.”
In his last season before college, Duenas made 71 saves with five shutouts for Canyon Springs. He averaged 3.7 saves per game and was ranked 9th in the entire state of Nevada, finishing the season 13-5-2.
Duenas graduated high school with the plans to play at the next level, UNLV was the ideal university with the ability to have all of his friends and family come out and watch all of his home games. Duenas says it was a dream come true.
"It’s just a plus being from here, and playing in front of people that you know and all the people that have been supporting you, not only throughout my university years, but my club and high school years- like everything,” Duenas said. “It feels really good and it makes me really happy to have all of these people at my home games to cheer me on.”
Despite posting great stats in high school, Duenas did not play any minutes for the Rebels, until his sophomore year.
"Being the first season that I actually played my first game, I was super nervous. I was constantly texting my friends, my girlfriend- everyone,” Duenas said. “I was like, you know, I don’t think I’m ready for this. I kind of just relied on my own ability, and knew that I’m here for a reason and that reason is to play.”
In his first season with playing time, Duenas became the second Rebel to earn WAC Men’s Soccer Player of the Week honors. He joins Danny Musovski (2017) as the only player to earn this award three times in a season and is the first defensive player to do so.
"I look back at it now and just think, I shouldn’t have been nervous because it’s something I’ve been doing for such a long time now, and it’s something that I’m good at,” Duenas said.
Duenas was recognized for a third time, after recording four saves for his fifth shutout of the season on March 31; a 2-0 victory on the road at Dixie State. He went the entire month of March without allowing a goal, earning a shutout streak of over 400 minutes.
He continued this momentum as he climbed his way to the top leaders in all of NCAA Men’s Soccer. He tied for 23rd in the nation in save percentage (0.825), 34th in goals-against average (0.729), and tied for 12th for shutouts (5).
Duenas appeared in 9-of-10 games for the Rebels, recording all five shutouts for the team this season. He finished with a 4-5-2 record overall.
"This season obviously taught us that you’re not going to win everything. But personally, I liked that I did well and all these awards really mean a lot to me," Duenas said. "I just know I couldn’t have done it without Matt [Ridley] and all those guys in front of me. It takes an entire team to be recognized, so it was just really nice to have guys like that on the field every day with me. It makes my job a whole lot easier for sure.”
The Rebels entered the WAC Tournament as the No. 4 seed for the first time since 2018. UNLV hosted the event, held at Peter Johann Memorial Field from Tuesday to Saturday.
Their run was short-lived, as they lost to the Seattle Redhawks in the first round, 1-3. In the second half, Duenas stopped only two shots.
Even if the Rebels didn’t finish the season where they wanted to, Duenas exhibited his outstanding work as goalie for the team, proving he deserves to play in those crucial minutes on the field.
"It was extremely emotional losing that home first round, but you know, we can't put our heads down,” Duenas said. “We just have to keep going at it and know that next year is going to be better. Next season, we're going to go all the way for sure.”
As a sophomore on the team, Duenas has two more years as a Rebel to show off his talent in the net. UNLV looks forward to having the chance to compete in the WAC Tournament once again, only to make it further and win the championship.