For the past seven years, no conference opponent has been able to top the UNLV men's swimming team.
The Rebels are just one meet into their 2011-12 season, but already it appears they intend to extend that stretch to eight.
They won't do it in the Mountain West Conference this season, as the league disbanded men's swimming after the Rebels won their record seventh consecutive championship in February. But if their debut in the nine-team Mountain Pacific Sports Federation was any indication, they could be headed for their first title in the new league.
Though coach Jim Reitz saw room for improvement, his team easily knocked off perennial MPSF favorite Cal State Bakersfield on Oct. 8.
"Our overall performance was gutsy," said Reitz, whose squad scored a 197-91 victory. "But we were pretty slow because we were muscle-tired."
Reitz, whose team did not slow its training routine in preparation for the meet, didn't want to overstate the significance of the win. But he did make a logical conclusion.
"We handily defeated last year's champion," said Reitz, whose squad finished 19th in last season's NCAA Championships. "So that means we're competitive in this conference."
Reitz returns most of last year's top swimmers, including Mountain West swimmer of the year Cody Roberts. The junior sprinter won three individual events in last year's league meet and was one of eight UNLV swimmers to qualify for NCAA competition.
Other top returners include senior backstroke and freestyle specialist Andrew Morrell, sophomore breaststroke phenom David Szele and senior All-America sprinter Steven Nelms.
Reitz said he also will look for strong performances from sophomore Giacomo Gremizzi, who won the 400-yard individual medley championship in the spring despite suffering with a cracked pelvis for much of the season.
Reitz noted that he also has a promising freshman class, led by 100 butterfly specialist Coleman Allen.
"Coleman could make the (2012) Olympic team," Reitz said. "He's a long shot, but he's that good."
Including his traditionally dominant relay teams, Reitz foresees the possibility of sending several men to the NCAA meet again this season.
"I won't be satisfied if we don't send at least eight," the coach said.
The women's team, which remains in the Mountain West Conference, will be young but deep. Though the league's coaches recently chose the Rebels to finish fourth in their annual poll, Reitz thinks his squad has an outside chance of winning a league championship.
"We could surprise some people this year," he said. "It's a little early to tell. We've got some people coming in that nobody thought about until our first meet."
Though the women opened their season with a 171-124 loss to San Diego State on Oct. 8, Reitz noted that the Aztecs were picked to win the conference.
The coach returns junior Brittany Ozar and sophomores Rachel Dixon, Katelyne Herrington and Jessica Heim, and he also believes several newcomers could help make an impact.
Freshman Jessica Marsh won the 200 free and the 500 free against San Diego State, and freshman Natalie Sanchez is making strides in the breaststroke events.
"They're going to score a lot of points for us," Reitz said.
The women will join the men Friday as both teams travel to face Arizona.