Kevin Hagood has needed to make several difficult decisions during his tenure as Palo Verde’s boys soccer coach.
Selecting a starting goalkeeper rarely has been one of them.
“Since I arrived at the school in 1997, we’ve always had really good goalies,” Hagood said. “I’ve heard other people call us ‘Goalie High School,’ kind of like ‘Goalie University.’ We’ve been blessed. It’s a position I don’t need to worry about too often.”
Especially this season.
Sophomore Nishesh Yadav is the Panthers’ latest shot-stopping standout, recording nine shutouts in 13 games while keeping alive a school tradition, not to mention a family one.
Yadav’s older brother, Nishant, was the Panthers’ backup goalie in 2011 before starting as a senior in 2012.
“It really motivates me because I know his record of shutouts,” Nishesh Yadav said. “I try to keep up the legacy. He was a fantastic goalie, so I try to duplicate him. He’s always there for me, coaching me. I try to do him proud.
“He goes to UNLV, so whenever he comes, I obviously try to give him a good show. It always makes me work harder when my family is around.”
Nishant Yadav had seven shutouts last season, helping Palo Verde win its first league title in program history and reach the semifinals of the Division I Sunset Region playoffs. Hagood said the brothers bring opposing styles to the position.
Nishant Yadav was more aggressive, taking advantage of his size to challenge shooters and handle any high ball sent into the box. Nishesh Yadav is shorter and relies more on his positioning. He rarely comes off his line, preferring to let his defenders take care of crosses and corner kicks.
“They’re completely different kids, but they get the same results,” Hagood said. “It’s a beautiful thing to watch every day.”
Yadav recorded four saves in Monday’s 3-0 victory at Sierra Vista, including a key stop on Miles McRae’s free header from close range in the first 10 minutes. Yadav allowed a second-half goal in Wednesday’s 6-1 victory over Arbor View, ending his streak of more than 250 minutes without yielding a goal.
Yadav has given up only four goals this season but was quick to credit the Panthers’ defense, which includes seniors Will Cleland, Ryan Nielson and Jose Ahumuda, along with junior Griffin Mallas.
“A lot of games I do get shutouts, the possession is like 75-25, so I don’t have to do much,” Yadav said. “The defensive line is phenomenal. They never put me in a tough position. They’re really solid. I couldn’t be more blessed.”
The Panthers (13-0, 6-0 Northwest League) are No. 1 in the latest Southern Nevada boys soccer coaches poll and one of two unbeatens in Division I, along with Eldorado. But Palo Verde has faced only one ranked team — No. 8 Centennial — and Yadav and Co. figure to be severely tested in the postseason.
Palo Verde never has advanced to the state tournament, but Hagood hopes his team’s balance and depth will be enough.
“The second round of the playoffs has been a nemesis of ours the past five years. You just hope it becomes your time,” Hagood said. “The talent is there; the squad is there. The kids don’t want to settle for the playoffs. They want to go further than that.”
Contact reporter David Schoen at email@example.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.