The Mountain West’s most proficient offense was on full display in UNLV’s 3-1 win over the Colorado State women’s soccer team on Friday night.
A moment of silence for those affected by Sunday’s tragic attack preceded the match at Peter Johann Memorial Field in Las Vegas.
From the opening kickoff, it was apparent that containing UNLV’s speed would be an issue for the Rams. Prior to Friday’s match, UNLV led the Mountain West with an average of 2.07 goals per game and nearly reached that mark in the 17th minute versus CSU.
By the 11th minute, UNLV had already generated three corner kicks and the early offensive momentum. The Rebels were unable to convert on their set pieces, but did make the Rams pay in the 14th minute. With CSU goalie Hunter Peifer playing up in her box, midfielder Katie Ballou hooked a long shot from roughly 30 yards away, beating Peifer to the back left post for the sophomore’s third goal of the season.
The Rebels took an early 1-0 lead and nearly doubled it a minute later when an unguarded Michaela Morris raced into the penalty area looking for her sixth goal of the season. Before Morris could get a shot off, Peifer tackled the forward to warrant a yellow card and penalty kick.
The Rebels selected Ballou to take the ensuing penalty kick. Ballou tallied a world class goal in the 14th minute from long range, yet couldn’t baffle Peifer from 12 yards out as the CSU keeper made a diving save to her right to keep the score 1-0.
Just two minutes later, the speedy Morris made her way past CSU defender Beth Plentl and had another opportunity for an easy score. Peifer charged out of the box and swatted the ball away, but acted too aggressively as UNLV was awarded another penalty kick. This time the Rebels called on leading scorer Sophie Cortes to take the shot. Once again, Peifer guessed correctly and stuffed the chance.
CSU coach Bill Hempen has been in the game for 28 years and hasn’t seen anything like what Peifer did on Friday.
“I can’t remember one of my goalkeepers doing that in my career,” Hempen said in a statement. “That keeps us in it. It could’ve gotten ugly early, but because of that, we’re able to withstand it.”
After Peifer’s big saves prevented the Rebels from running away with the game early, the Rams used quick touches and through passes to regain their speed and generate some offense.
CSU eventually cashed in when freshman Taylor Steinke found Alex Lanning with a pass moving right to left across the top of the penalty area. Lanning ripped a laser to the upper-left corner of the net for her second goal of the season. Steinke’s assist was the first of her CSU career.
“There was actually one more player open, but Alex chose upper-90 and scored,” Hempen said. “We were excited – you could feel we were back in it. That second half we played much better. I felt like we would get the equalizer, and we did.”
The Rams battled back to tie the score at one, but a defensive turnover is all Amanda Galbraith and the potent UNLV offense needed to take back the lead and control of the game in the 76th minute.
“I also thought we were going to take the next step and get another, but we made that fatal mistake,” Hempen said. “We had expended a lot of energy getting back to 1-1, and it just wasn’t going to be.”
UNLV’s rampant ball possession wore down the CSU defense for the remaining 15 minutes and the Rams never had a chance to get back in the game. UNLV’s Morris threatened all night for the Rebels and eventually tallied her sixth goal of the season in the 83rd minute. In total, the Rebels racked up 22 shots to the Rams’ two.
The Rams head to Reno for their next Mountain West test on Sunday at 2 p.m.
Collegian sports reporter Christian Hedrick can be reached by email at email@example.com or on Twitter @ChristianHCSU.