Last year, Wolf Pack soccer goalkeeper Kendal Stovall had a record-breaking freshman season for Nevada, starting all 19 of the team's matches while placing seventh in school history in single-season saves (99) and save percentage (.773). She posted three shutouts, earned the Mountain West defensive player of the week award in her first month as a college player and was named to the MW's all-newcomer team. Her success wasn't mirrored by the team, which went 4-13-2 after going 1-18 the year prior. Stovall, a native of Mililani, Hawaii, is expecting much improvement in the 2019 season (Nevada has begun the year 1-1 and play at Stovall's home state of Hawaii on Thursday night).
For her stellar play last season and excellent start to this season (she's allowed just two goals while recording eight saves), Stovall is Nevada Sports Net's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month for August, an honor presented in partnership with Champion Chevrolet. Here is a portion of our interview with Stovall, including what she learned as a freshman, her tear-filled start as a goalkeeper, why she signed with Nevada instead of bigger schools and her favorite hobby (tanning), among other topics.
Q&A with Kendal Stovall
On being named NSN's Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month
Kendal Stovall: It’s an honor. I love that our hard work and the fact it’s Nevada women’s soccer (is honored). A lot of people say, ‘Oh, Nevada has a soccer team?’ It kind of hits home a little. But, yeah, we have a soccer team, and the athletes are just as good in soccer, football, track. Everybody is so amazing at this school, and I’m glad Nevada women’s soccer gets to show its light.
On what she learned from her freshman season
KS: Definitely to be open-minded. I wasn’t expecting at all to have the freshman season that I did. I took every game like I didn’t have that game in the bag. In college, you can start or not start every game. It’s the toss of a coin. It’s whether the coaches are feeling you that week or not. Every week I worked just as hard as the next. It panned out the way it did. Coming in for my sophomore season. I’m trying to top that. It’s a little weird because when I touch the ball, technically that’s not a good thing because that means we’re getting broken down a lot. Hopefully this season I’m hoping to not make as many saves because I want the best for the team, but when I do I’ll give all of my best efforts and hopefully get as many clean sheets as possible.
On being the leader of the team and her mentality in goal
KS: I definitely think I have to be one of the most mentally fit people on the team and I have to know what every single position has to do. It’s kind of like playing chess. You have to know where all the pieces go. I’m definitely the person making all the moves. I have to tell the backfield 'Shift right, shift left.’ I have to tell the forward, ‘You have time, turn, man on.’ If I don’t do these things it’s on my shoulders, the coaches will tell me, ‘Hey, you have to be more vocal because they can’t see everything on the field.' I have the perfect field of the whole field. I’m definitely the one who’s able to see the plays happening. My soccer IQ has to be pretty high. I definitely take pride in what EO (head coach Erin Otagaki) has taught me, Coach Katie (Osterman) has taught me and even P (coach Parrissa Eyorokon). Definitely they have improved my soccer IQ 10-fold, and I couldn't thank them enough.
On being moved from a field player to a goalkeeper in her youth
KS: That was definitely rough. If you ask my parents, I went home crying every single game. I hated being in goal. I wanted all the action up front, I wanted to score, I wanted to be that person. When I got, ‘Hey, Kendal Stovall you’re in goal,' tears instantly. That was for two years. My first experience in the goal was when I was 9. I went to my first goalkeeper training about a year later and from there on out, I guess Kendal Stovall was made to be a goalkeeper.
On why she picked Nevada as a high school recruit
KS: I definitely love Reno. I came here because, one, Lake Tahoe is very close. I love the beach. I’m a huge beach gal. The campus is amazing. It’s not too big, not too small. It kind of reminds me of home. It’s not too big, not too small. My club coach, Gina Brewer, also played with Hope Solo and Coach Erin (at Washington). That definitely helped persuade my decision more toward coming to Nevada, knowing they both had experiences with Hope Solo (her favorite player) and both know what it’s like to playing with that No. 1 goalkeeper, and I trust that they know what’s best for my game and what I need to do to improve. I put all my faith in that and I loved Katy, P, Ivan (Zarate), our volunteer goalkeeping coach, I loved all the staff. Coming on my official, the girls were so welcoming, it definitely persuaded my decision to be 100 percent Nevada, Reno, and I couldn’t be more proud of myself for that decision.
On her tanning strategy (she loves tanning)
KS: I love the fact you (asked) that. If you ask, Brittany Wiehe and Hannah Souza, those are my tanning buddies, I’ll start on my stomach and go 45 (minutes). I’ll add maybe 10 minutes if I’m not happy. Flip. 45 again. It’s like flipping a burger. You do that for two or three rounds depending on how much of a roast you want. In between each round you take a dip so you don’t get too hot. And the water also helps you tan naturally. That’s definitely my process. I do that every single time.
On her expectations for the 2019 season
KS: 100 percent higher. I think our team can achieve a lot more than. Last year, we were always 'this close' but not close enough. I personally don’t accept being 'this close.' At the end of the day, we still lost and I would love to see those results slowly start to build up. I think we are right here. We can keep up with a Boise State or a Utah or an Eastern Washington. Just because you see all of these big names, it doesn’t mean that the underdogs who people see as less of a threat can’t win. We were right there with Boise (the Broncos went 13-4-3 last year). Our game was 2-1 and we were tied for the majority of that game. I think we play amazing soccer. You can watch us pass, you can watch us communicate, connect as a team. We are an amazing team. We have the talent this year. We have the team chemistry this year. We have the drive, the willingness to win. I definitely think the results this year are going to show, and I’m so excited to show everybody and showcase it out there.
On why she picked a struggling program with offers from larger schools
KS: My coach told me, Coach Gina Brewer, told me basically, 'You can be a big fish in a little pond or you can be a small fish in big pond.' Being a small fish in a big pond, I could have gone to a big establishment and let’s say they have three goalkeepers and I could be third string and have zero impact on the program but we would be winning. It would feel great because we’re winning and we’re winning and we’re winning, But I’m not doing anything. I’m just sitting there. I want to play. I want to be a big fish in a little pond, whether it’s here or at another bottom of the totem pole school. I’d rather feel that more accomplished feeling of building your way to the top than already being on the top and just sitting on the bench and know I’m winning, but technically I personally am not winning. I wanted to go earn a starting spot, have an impact on the program, turn it around. Not me personally, but as a whole turn it around. Hype everybody up and really build on that over the years. Our team is so young. We have a lot of young players and I think we have the opportunity to slowly build this program up. We hit a huge a barrier last year and hit that point where we can break through it. I think this year is us finally breaking through that barrier, winning some games and accomplishing what we’ve been waiting for for so long.”
Sports columnist Chris Murray provides insight on Northern Nevada sports. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or follow him on Twitter @MurrayNSN.
Previous Wolf Pack Athlete of the Month honorees
July: Lucas Weber, football