Encouraged by her mother from a young age to become the best she can be, UNLV senior soccer goalie Kylie Wassell appears to have done just that — on the field and in the classroom.
A Las Vegas native who will start her final regular-season game for the Rebels at 5 p.m. Friday at home against rival UNR, Wassell graduated from Bonanza High a year early as its valedictorian — with a weighted 4.8 grade-point average, the highest attainable at the time. She started her first game for UNLV the day after she turned 17.
Wassell has started every game since then for the Rebels (9-8-2 this season), allowing only 92 goals in 80 games for a 1.15 goals-against average. She set a school season record with 10 shutouts last season, and her 24 career shutouts are two shy of the school’s all-time mark.
Armed with a perfect 4.0 GPA — the highest of all student-athletes at UNLV — Wassell last season became the first player in team history to be named an Academic All-American, an honor bestowed on only 33 players nationwide.
This season, she’s one of 30 women’s soccer players in the country to be nominated for the Senior Class Award, the nation’s premier award for NCAA senior student-athletes.
A secondary education major and aspiring high school math teacher — though the 20-year-old probably will start in middle school because of her age — Wassell also regularly volunteers her time to help others, a trait she learned from her mother, Carolyn, a local middle school teacher.
“She has a lot of passion for helping people, especially children,” Wassell said of her mother. “It’s good, being a Las Vegas native, to give back to the community as much as I can.”
Wassell has five shutouts this season, during which she has missed two practices per week to fulfill her student-teaching commitment at a local middle school. She makes up the missed practice time by working with the team’s goalie coach and having teammates fire shots at her.
“We only get to see her two practices a week because of her student teaching. What she’s doing is a testament to Kylie,” Rebels coach Michael Coll said. “She’s still our starting goalkeeper and still on pace to break the all-time shutout record and she doesn’t really practice with us.”
Not that that bothers her teammates, who in a team vote chose Wassell as captain.
“She’s extremely popular with her teammates and coaches,” Coll said. “What she’s done for soccer in this city, for young kids, as a local kid to look up to is amazing.
“She’s your prototypical student-athlete. She’s an unbelievably bright individual. She’s going places.”
As if excelling in school, sports and community service weren’t enough, Wassell also found time as a young girl to become a locally ranked chess player.
“I’m very competitive in everything I do,” she said. “I like being the best or one of the top performers.”
That competitive drive is one of the main reasons Wassell graduated early from Bonanza. There was an opening at goalkeeper at UNLV after her junior year of high school and she wasn’t about to pass it up.
“From a competitive standpoint, I thought graduating a year early and coming in with two freshmen would give me the best chance for starting and competing for the position,” she said.
The decision worked out perfectly for Wassell, who has her sights on UNLV’s career shutouts record, though she might have to blank the Rebels’ next two opponents — UNR and the a first-round foe in the MW tournament — to tie it.
“I’d like to say I hold the record,” she said. “At this point, it will be a bit of a challenge, but it’s a challenge that I’m up for. It makes the end of the season more interesting.”
The longer seventh-seeded UNLV lasts in its league tournament, the better Wassell’s chances to break the record.
“I definitely think we have a chance (to win it),” she said. “I don’t think there’s any team in the conference we can’t beat.”
Contact reporter Todd Dewey at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0354. Follow him on Twitter: @tdewey33.