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NOTES: Sunrise Mountain soccer team eyes league lead

Outside of Brett Underwood’s classroom at Sunrise Mountain is a bulletin board highlighting the accomplishments of the Miners’ boys soccer team.

The sixth-year coach hasn’t had a difficult time filling it this season.

Sunrise Mountain is one of three undefeated teams in Southern Nevada, and the hot start garnered recognition in two regional rankings this week. The Miners checked in at No. 8 in TopDrawerSoccer.com’s West region poll and are No. 12 in the National Soccer Coaches Association of America Region VIII poll.

“The goal from the beginning was just to get back to the playoffs, and we’ll work from there,” Underwood said. “But other extremely positive things have unfolded for us.”

Sunrise Mountain finished third in the Division I-A Sunrise League last season and made a surprising run to the state title game before falling 4-1 to Tech. This season, the Miners (12-0, 11-0 Sunrise League) have outscored their opponents 76-5, including Tuesday’s 6-1 victory over Del Sol.

The Miners are led by Jose Arreola (16 goals) and Raciel Jimenez-Vazquez (13 goals), but 18 other players have scored at least one goal. Underwood also credited first-year assistant coach Lindsay Parlee, a former goalkeeper at Washington State and Oregon, for the team’s defensive solidity.

Sunrise Mountain plays Tech (14-4-2, 9-1-1) on Thursday at Heritage Park with first place in the league at stake. The Miners won the first meeting 3-2 on Sept. 29.

“A lot of these guys that have been with me for four years, that whole discipline, what I’ve been trying to teach for the last six years — I’ve been here since the school opened — is finally kind of taking hold,” Underwood said. “Every player knows what their role and responsibility is, and I think that’s a huge, huge benefit.”

■ MWIRIGI ADDS TO TOTAL — Las Vegas senior defensive back Kode Mwirigi has been targeted by opposing quarterbacks all season, and he continues to make them pay.

Mwirigi snagged his area-leading ninth interception in Friday’s 63-14 victory over Valley and has picked off a pass in six consecutive games for the No. 9 Wildcats (4-3).

“He’s got a knack for the ball, and people keep wanting to throw at him,” Wildcats coach James Thurman said. “He’s a senior, and it’s his time to be a guy. We always say, ‘Players make plays.’ He’s a player; he’s making plays.”

The 6-foot-1-inch, 160-pound Mwirigi, who also is a standout for Las Vegas’ track and field team, had three interceptions as a junior. He is not being recruited by any schools for football, but Thurman expects that to change.

“We’re hoping some guys come around,” he said. “Our track coach thinks he could be a heck of a decathlete because he’s just always in good shape. He expressed an interest to me last year about wanting to …. join the Army, and I told him, ‘Let’s just wait and see how this season ends up. You might be able to get some free school out of it.’ So we’ll see.”

■ GAELS IN ALL-AMERICAN GAME — Bishop Gorman defensive back Nicco Fertitta and Gaels tight end Alize Jones were selected to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl on Jan. 3 in San Antonio.

Fertitta, who has given an oral commitment to Notre Dame, and Jones, a UCLA commit, will receive their official invitations during a ceremony Tuesday at Gorman. The game will be televised on NBC.

Contact reporter David Schoen at dschoen@reviewjournal.com or 702-387-5203. Follow him on Twitter: @DavidSchoenLVRJ.

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