By Bryan Haines, UNLV Sports Information
After making steady progress in each of the previous two seasons, 2003 was a year full of promise for a UNLV volleyball program that got off to a fast start, but ultimately fell short of expectations, finishing 13-17 overall and 4-10 in the Mountain West Conference.
Inconsistency and an inability to win on the road plagued the Rebels all season long, as UNLV lost in the opening round of the Mountain West Conference Tournament to San Diego State in three games, 26-30, 24-30 and 27-30.
The season couldn't have started better for the Rebels, who won six of their first nine matches, including sweeping three matches at their own UNLV Tournament over the weekend of Sept. 5 and 6. Highlighting their start was a five match win streak that included victories over West Virginia, Morgan State, Lamar, Cal State Fullerton and Gonzaga. The middle three of those five wins came at the UNLV Tournament.
The final win of the streak came on the road at the Spike Off Tournament in Spokane, Wash. against Boise State, a five-game thriller that ended in the Rebels favor, 18-30, 30-28, 30-24, 24-30 and 16-14.
However, that win over Boise State was not a sign of things to come for the Rebels, who wouldn't win again on the road for almost two months.
Following the tough victory against Boise State, the Rebels dropped five straight matches, including their first three in league play against San Diego State, at Colorado State and at Wyoming. UNLV did rebound to beat Air Force and Wyoming to climb back into the middle of the Mountain West standings, but UNLV would only win two more league games the rest of the year.
Leiana Oswald had a strong senior campaign, leading the team in kills with 441, a 4.16 per game average. Her 441 kills gave her 1,350 total kills for her career, a UNLV career record. Oswald also had 218 digs during the 2003 season for a career total of 812, another Rebel career record. Oswald's efforts throughout the season earned her first-team All-Mountain West Conference honors.
Nicki King also broke a Rebel record last year, becoming the school's all-time assist leader with 3,197. She led the team in assists last season with 1,119.
Sheila Ocasio-Clemente rebounded from an injury-riddled junior season to lead the team in total blocks with 112 during her senior season. She finished second on the all-time list in total blocks with 353, just six behind career leader Christel Eves.
After losing to San Diego State in the conference tournament, the Rebels did close their season on a high note, as they swept their own Thanksgiving Classic. UNLV beat Kentucky in five games (27-30, 30-17, 27-30, 30-25 and 15-11) and then swept Weber State in three games (30-19, 30-26 and 31-29). UNLV hopes to bring the momentum of those last two matches with it to the 2004 season.