Freshmen goalkeeper Kendal Stovall and midfielder Kylie Minamishin have formed a pack of their own.
On the field, Stovall and Minamishin developed quite a bit of chemistry playing together since their sophomore years at Kamehameha high school, located in Honolulu. It’s translating to a steady improvement for a youthful Nevada women’s soccer team.
“It’s taken time, but she knows my strengths as a player,” Minamishin said. “She knows what my preferences are when she distributes balls to me and it really benefits us as a team. Coming from the same high school really helps and you can see it on the field.”
Stovall is adjusting to Minamishin’s style of play as well, and the two are in the midst of forming a dynamic duo.
“I’m beginning to know Kylie’s preferences on the field,” Stovall said. “She’s a lefty so I would play the ball to her left and she goes off. And if I’m ever mad about a play, she knows how to calm me down so it helps with the team chemistry overall.”
Both players were named to the Mountain West All-Newcomer team, marking the first all-conference award for Nevada since Daisha Jones-Oglesby in 2015. The team is composed of 11 freshmen or first-year transfers within the conference.
Stovall had a record-setting season. Her 99 saves and 1,750 minutes in goal ranks seventh and eighth in school history. She was also named Mountain West Defensive Player of the Week for the week of Aug. 27, posting a 1-0-1 record with 10 saves over a two-game period.
“I think Kendal has kept that competitive mentality all season,” head coach Erin Otagaki said. “She’s playing with a certain confidence that’s well beyond her years. I’m really impressed with her play early on.”
Minamishin has tallied four points this season — one goal and three assists. She’s first on the team in shots with 26 and second in shots on goal with 9. Her 1,602 minutes played rank fourth on the team.
One year after finishing 1-18 and failing to win a conference game, the Wolf Pack have improved to 4-12-2 this season. Stovall and Minamishin have big aspirations for the future of the program.
“This year was a coming out year for us,” Minamishin said. “Our freshman class has a lot of potential and we’ve improved a lot. We’ve really grown as a team and I feel that there’s a lot of us getting playing time to help us improve. Being such a young team, this experience will help us in the future.”
Both players built illustrious high school careers during their time at Kamehameha. Stovall is a winner of five soccer league championships spanning the Virginia, Oregon and Hawaii areas. She also competed in track and field as an upperclassman.
Minamishin lettered in soccer all four years, earning All-State honors from her freshman to junior years. She won multiple state championships with the Honolulu Bulls — Hawaii’s premier soccer club that strives to improve the skills of players ages 8-19. Those accomplishments earned Minamishin a spot on the U.S. Under-16 Girls National Team.
“We just have a lot of talent at Kamehameha,” Stovall said. “We don’t necessarily back it up with championships but there is a lot of individual effort. Mini and I are just two players from the soccer team. The Hawaiians that come up to Nevada bring a lot of talent to the programs and it shows.”
Off the field, one word can describe their relationship, “together”.
“Teammates and friends call us inseparable,” Stovall said. “We are basically always together and we’ve been best friends since sophomore year. We’ve gone through some ups and downs, but we’ve been very tight ever since.”
Minamishin couldn’t agree more with her fellow teammate.
“We’re like sisters,” Minamishin said. “We fight and then we get over it, but in the end we’re always together and that’s all that matters to us.”
Their connection on and off the field could be the driving force to put Nevada Wolf Pack soccer on the map for years to come.
Isaiah Burrows can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.