Nevada open its third season at home today vs. CS-Northridge
RENO — When it comes to building soccer programs, Nevada women’s soccer coach Dang Pibulvech uses building a house as his only example.
“We’ve made progress,” said Pibulvech, who has helped turn around programs at Washington, Texas and Colorado College before coming to Reno. “It’s been tough putting up the walls. Now we’re ready to build the roof.”
Wait a minute.
Most people wouldn’t consider a 4-31-1 record in two seasons, including a 0-17-1 season last year, as progress. Putting up the walls? More like getting denied for a loan by the bank.
“It takes normally six years to build a program,” Pibulvech said. “We’re only in our third year. The critics, we’ll just ignore (them). Our supporters will see our improvement.”
Nevada, which hasn’t won a game in over 22 months, opens the 2002 season today at 5:30 against Cal State-Northridge at Mackay Stadium. The Matadors beat the Wolf Pack 2-0 in last year’s season opener in Northridge, Calif.
Pibulvech expects a different result today.
“We weren’t as organized going into that match (last year), I like this group a little more,” Pibulvech said. “We have a group of hard working kids ready to represent the school. The critics will always worry about results. But as a coach, when you have the players like I do who will work hard every game, I can be happy. I don’t think we’ll ever get beat by lack of effort.”
Four Northern Nevada players are on Wolf Pack’s roster, including Carson High’s Ali Banister. Pibulvech hasn’t told Banister, a freshman, whether she’ll start in today’s game. The Senators’ leading scorer the past two seasons isn’t worried about playing time, though. She’s still getting over her nervousness.
“There is a little anxiety there,” said Banister, who scored 34 goals as a junior and senior. “The first week and a half of practice I didn’t feel that comfortable. I realized that the level was way higher (than I was used to). It’s a much faster pace. But I feel good now. From the girls who are returning, the team is a lot more confident going into the season.”
Coming off a winless season, it would be hard not to. But if the so called ‘critics’ look at Nevada’s results the past two seasons, Pibulvech and his house-building argument begins to make sense.
In seven Western Athletic Conference games two years ago, Nevada was outscored 27-3, losing by an average of three goals per game. Last year, the Wolf Pack played eight WAC games and were only outscored 25-12, including one-goal losses to WAC champ Southern Methodist University, San Jose State and an overtime loss to Fresno State.
“The first year, those teams wiped us off the field,” Pibulvech said. “Last year, we were within one goal. That’s improvement, the natural progression of a building program.”
It also must be pointed out that of Nevada’s four wins in 2000, only two were against NCAA teams. The program’s first-ever win, a 3-0 victory, was against Southern Nevada Community College. Last year, the Wolf Pack didn’t play any non-NCAA teams. This year, the team’s only non-NCAA opponent is Eastern Washington, an NAIA school.
Nevada, which was picked to finish in last in a WAC preseason poll, is led by a pair of two-year starters in second team all WAC performer Leisha Makinano and Kaula Rowe, the Wolf Pack’s leading scorer the past two seasons. The Wolf Pack returns eight starters from last season, including Galena’s Annie Baxter and Amy Jackson, a pair of sophomores who had productive freshman campaigns. Jackson scored three goals as a freshman, second most on the team.
“I think she already is special player for us,” Pibulvech said of Jackson. “She is motivated and willing. With those two ingredients, you can go further than people thought you were capable of.”
What is this Nevada team capable of? Well, Pibulvech still plans for the roof to be completed by winter, perhaps with even the first shingle being put on today.