Led by MWC Player of the Year Aleksandra Josifoska, Rebels head to Nebraska in search of title
Following a 4-2 loss to Wyoming in Fort Collins, Colo. on April 20 that ended the women’s tennis team’s five-game winning streak, the Rebels had extra incentive to exact revenge on the same team exactly one week later in Colorado Springs, Colo. in the Mountain West Conference Championships.
After powering their way to a 16-7 record during the regular season, including a dominating 12-3 record at home, the Rebels avenged losses during the regular season to San Diego State and Wyoming to capture the MWC Championship for the fourth time in program history.
The Rebels downed Fresno State 4-1 in the quarterfinals to kick things off on April 26. UNLV was then tasked with a showdown against the Cowboys in the MWC semifinals the very next day.
Things were much different the second time around.
UNLV reversed fortune and defeated Wyoming 4-2 to advance to the finals on April 28 against the Aztecs, a team they lost to by a score of 4-3 on April 5.
The Rebels hadn’t made it to the finals of the MWC Championships in four years and were seeking their first conference title since 2008.
Led by 2013 MWC Player of the Year Aleksandra Josifoska, the Rebels defeated the Aztecs 4-1 to capture the conference championship and advance to the NCAA Women’s Tennis Championships.
Josifoska hasn’t been beaten by a MWC opponent since the 2011 season and is 21-1 over the course of her career against conference foes.
She will once again be relied upon to help the Rebels advance in a championship tournament they are quite familiar with.
The UNLV women’s tennis team has reached the NCAA Championships 11 times in program history as well as six times in the past seven seasons.
On May 10, the No. 65 Rebels (19-7) will head to Lincoln, Neb. to face No. 24 Tulsa (19-6) in the opening round of the NCAA Championships.
If the Rebels are able to outlast the Golden Hurricanes, who are 10-1 over their last 11 games, they will face the winner of Nebraska vs. Wichita State on May 11.
The Rebels will have to overcome their history of early exits in the NCAA Championships to stake their claim as one of the powerhouse programs in the country.
UNLV was bounced in the first round of the NCAA Tournament in 1997, 2002, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2008, 2009 and 2011. Their other appearances in 1998 and 2010 ended with second round exits.
In order to shed the reputation of being one-and-done in the grandest stage of the season, the Rebels will face a Tulsa program that they’ve had some history with, as well.
Both teams were members of the Western Athletic Conference from 1996-98.
The Rebels are 6-3 in games played at neutral sites this season, so the possibility of upsetting Tulsa isn’t entirely inconceivable. The Golden Hurricanes are 5-2 in neutral sites and 3-4 in away games this year.
If UNLV advances, they will likely be hoping that Wichita State overcomes tournament host Nebraska, which is 14-0 at home this season.
Led by Mary Weatherholt, who is 22-1 this season in singles play, Nebraska is a powerhouse that seems poised to utilize the home state advantage.
With head coach Kevin Cory — who has the most wins of any coach in UNLV women’s tennis and MWC women’s tennis history — at the helm and Josifoska playing at her best, the Rebels will have a fighting chance against any opponent they face in the NCAA Championships.