The poker face.
It is contained in every facet of Las Vegas, and this stigma seems to transcend the casino lights and Neil Diamond impersonators, and it has been attached to the Las Vegas Rebel volleyball team this year.
“UNLV is a very unknown challenge,” said assistant coach Karrie Larsen, “They are a new and better team.”
The Rams face this enigma tonight as they head to Las Vegas. The Rams look to raise the stakes to a 13-1 overall record in their second conference match.
The enigmatic Rebels have posted some impressive wins so far this season and have cashed in on a 7-4 record, 4-1 when playing within the confines of UNLV’s Cox Pavilion.
The Rebels gambled away their one loss in a 0-3 trouncing inflicted by Fresno State, but they are currently on a three-game winning streak. They are rolling high coming off a momentous five-game comeback win against Utah Valley State Saturday in which freshman star outside hitter Maria Aladjova racked up a career high of 28 kills and senior setter Nicki King delivered 67 assists.
“We’re going on the road for the first time in league, playing against UNLV. Numbers-wise (they) look really good,” said head coach Tom Hilbert.
On the other side of the net, CSU senior setter Melissa Courtney has distributed 433 total assists to the Rams attack so far, averaging 13.53 assists per game. Junior outside hitter Tess Rogers has capitalized on the majority of those sets, accumulating 108 kills, and senior middle blocker Katie Jo Shirley-Cahoon follows closely with 104.
For UNLV, King has posted 357 assists on the year, 12.31 per game. Her favorite target has been Aladjova, who has amassed a team-high of 158 kills per game. Six-foot-3-inch sophomore middle blocker Lauren Miramontes adds an intimidating 120 kills.
CSU edges UNLV in blocking, with senior middle blocker Bri Frech accumulating a total of 48. Shirley-Cahoon has also added 38 stuffs to frustrate opponents.
Miramontes leads the Rebels at the net with 38 blocks, while another freshman, middle blocker Marie Pencheva has netted 24 blocks.
Defensively, sophomore libero Kristen Karlik has racked up 111 digs to lead CSU, while UNLV freshman libero Jada Walker has picked up 179. Walker has proven to be the Rebels’ ace in the hole, tallying 20 service aces on the year. Courtney leads the CSU serving stampede with 11 aces.
After videotaping and running scouting reports on their future opponent, the Rams have simulated the opposing team in practice.
“Through this process, we kind of play UNLV before we actually play them so we can figure things out ahead of time,” Hilbert said.
After the lights go out in Vegas, the Rams will travel to San Diego State to face the 0-13 Aztecs at 8 p.m. Saturday.