Rebels Squash Frogs En Route To Championship Match
Nov. 19, 2011
ALBUQUERQUE (UNLVRebels.com) - The seventh-seeded UNLV Rebels (14-16) came from behind to knock off the third-seeded TCU Horned Frogs (23-7) by a 3-1 score Saturday night in semifinal action at the 2011 Mountain West Volleyball Championship. UNLV was led by a double-double from Sekola Falemaka and strong play from its attackers and back row defenders en route to winning the match with set scores of 22-25, 25-14, 25-23, 25-19 at the Johnson Center in Albuquerque.
UNLV will play the top-seeded Colorado State Rams, who swept past the No. 4 Wyoming Cowgirls, Sunday night at 6:00 pm MT (5:00 pm PT) for the championship. The match will be televised live by the CBS Sports Network (DirecTV 613).
The Rebels extended its winning streak to five matches in conference tournament play, dating back to 2007. More impressively, UNLV became the lowest-seeded team in league history to advance to the championship contest. Coincidentally, Utah held the distinction of being the lowest to make the title bout as a fifth seed in '07.
"It's absolutely amazing, especially since we've come from being a No. 7 seed to being in the championship," said UNLV head coach Cindy Fredrick. "At the same time, we looked at the bracket and we liked our (side of the) bracket. We said, 'We've split with both of these teams and there's no reason why we can't beat them again.' I think that was what really drove our players and the fact that they knew that they could play better than they had been playing."
The Rebels out-hit the Horned Frogs .251 to .202, and smashed a season-high 71 kills to TCU's 49, which created a 22-point disparity between the two teams. UNLV hit .154 (first set) or better in all four sets and owned two above .333 (fourth). TCU, on the other hand, had three frames in the .200s with its lowest output in the second (.067).
The match featured 18 ties with half of those taking place in the first set, while all three lead changes occurred in the opening stanza, as well. After dropping the first set, UNLV came out each subsequent frame, took the lead and never relinquished it en route to three-consecutive set wins.
The Horned Frogs built up a six-point cushion at the 15-9 juncture in the initial set after withstanding eight of the nine ties with UNLV. TCU held at least a two-point lead for nearly the remainder of the frame until the Rebels pulled even at 22-all. Unfortunately, TCU got three-straight kills to end the stanza with a 1-0 lead.
The second set was the igniter to UNLV's come-from-behind win. After a 1-1 tie to open up, the Rebels reeled off seven points for an 8-1 advantage. UNLV would never let up the rest of the way, and built three 10-point leads along the way before ending the set up 11.
The third set was UNLV's from the get-go, but wasn't as easy as in the second. The Rebels couldn't put much breathing room between themselves and the Horned Frogs. A three-point lead was the most UNLV could muster on eight different occasions. After the final one occurred at 18-15, TCU evened the score five times before UNLV scored the final two points for the win.
The fourth and final set mirrored the second in that UNLV just kept scoring and built up an insurmountable lead. The Rebels led by as much as nine before putting the frame away by six.
The Rebel offense was led by four players with more than 13 kills. Candice Thomas led the quartet with a career- and match-high 20 kills off a .421 hitting efficiency. Thomas also chipped in four blocks (two solo) and a dig. Falemaka and Makenzie Moea'i threw down 16 kills apiece. Falemaka notched her sixth double-double of the year when she combined her career-high kill tally with 14 digs, and also pitched in two solo blocks and two assists. Moea'i added four digs. Madeline Westman rounded out the foursome with a .345 hitting average, 13 kills, four digs and two assists.
Stephanie Thelen dished out a match-high 56 assists, which tied the most she has amassed in her two-year career. Thelen also had nine digs and two kills.
TCU's Jordan Raines had a double-double in defeat with 10 kills and 12 digs. Yvonne Igodan led the Horned Frogs in kills with 15, while Megan Munce topped all with 35 assists. Sarah Joeckel topped her teammates in digs with 18.