Volleyball team slipping further in Mountain West
Lobos get revenge on UNLV at Pavilion, come back to beat Air Force for 29th straight time
UNLV, a team that was once fighting for first place in the Mountain West, now sits in fifth.
But the Rebels know they are a team that deserves to be hanging with the big dogs.
“We know that we’re not meant to be in fifth place,” said senior Stephanie Thelen. “We need to be in first or second place like we were. We just had a slip up, so now we’re going to use it as our momentum to get back up.”
UNLV (13-9, 8-4) started last week tied for second place with four other teams, but a 3-1 loss to New Mexico on Thursday caused a drop down to near the bottom half of the conference.
“We couldn’t put the ball away,” Thelen said. “We beat them at their house, and they came in and wanted to beat us, and they did.”
But UNLV was able to pick back up its momentum on Saturday, and win for the 29th consecutive time against Air Force.
It took four sets, but UNLV was able to put away the Falcons 3-1 in front of a crowd of over 600 people. The crowd support for the Rebels was strong Saturday night, and the players fed off of their energy.
“The more people the better. That’s what we play for. We play for the crowd,” Thelen said.
Before every home game, a line of children, mostly little girls, create a tunnel for the Rebels to run through during introductions. The players know that those little girls look up to them, and therefore want to play their best.
So when the Rebels find themselves in fifth place, they know they need to do better.
The Rebels came out strong, taking the first set 25-20. The second set seemed to be deja vu, as UNLV took an early lead 21-14. But the Falcons came back to even the match at 1-1 heading into halftime.
“When you are up 21-14, you gotta put it away,” head coach Cindy Fredrick said. “I was pretty unhappy about that. We just had a run of really bad mistakes, and you can’t do that. You just can’t do that.”
The third and fourth sets came with no trouble for the Rebels, outhitting Air Force by 102 points (.307-.205).
Junior Katlin Winters led the Rebels with 15 kills, with Sekola Falemaka and Madeline Westman right behind with 13 and 12, respectively.
Thelen had a match-high 44 assists against the Falcons, also recording 11 digs.
Junior Allison Davies recorded a matchhigh 18 digs with two assists. Falemaka and Davies both cranked out three aces, and Westman had two.
“We’ve got more depth right now than we have had. They want to be on the court, so they’re doing a good job to get onto the court,” Fredrick said.
Up next for the Rebels is a four-game road trip against Fresno State, San Jose State, San Diego State and Nevada-Reno.
“Those are three critical games,” Fredrick said. “Between Fresno State and San Diego state, that’s huge. And then throw San Jose State in, we got a big week coming up.”
The last two home games for UNLV are against Utah State on Nov. 21 and Boise State on Nov. 23, which is also Senior Night.
But before the Rebels start thinking about those games, they have to take on the tough road trip they have in front of them this week.
“We are ready to end the season strong,” Thelen said.