Things could be better for first-year UNLV volleyball coach Cindy Fredrick, but they also could be worse.
On one hand, the coach knows she will have to get through her inaugural season without the benefit of experienced players. On the other, she has inherited a team willing to do whatever it takes to win.
The Rebels will begin their season Friday when they travel to Greeley, Colo., to compete against Colorado in the Hampton Inn & Suites Classic, and Fredrick is eager to see the results of her squad’s hard work.
“This is a good group,” said Fredrick, who took over a program that went 10-20 last season under former coach Allison Keeley. “They’re very, very young, but they’re also very athletic. And they’re really working hard.”
Fredrick brings 24 years of head coaching experience to the program. Her resume includes stops at Weber State (1985-89), Washington State (1989-2004), Iowa (2004-08) and Division II Luther College (2010). Among her successes have been 10 NCAA Tournament appearances, two in which her Washington State squad reached the Elite Eight.
The coach, hired in December, has employed that experience in an effort to turn things around.
“The change from last spring to this fall has been really fun to watch,” Fredrick said. “There is a lot more confidence, the work ethic is good, and they’re so much stronger.”
Fredrick has made a number of changes to the team’s training routine, and physical conditioning has become a priority.
“When I got here, the girls were literally not able to do sit-ups and push-ups,” she said. “They’re still young, but they’re more developed.”
Madeline Westman, a returning middle blocker/outside hitter, said she and her teammates have welcomed the changes.
“I think it’s been change for the better,” said the 6-foot-3-inch sophomore from Wauconda, Ill. “The practices are more intense, and there is a different attitude.”
The Mountain West Conference isn’t so sure the changes will take effect immediately, with the coaches selecting UNLV to finish seventh in their annual preseason poll.
Fredrick is OK with that, as she knows she’ll need time to lead her team toward its long-term goals.
“Right now, we just want to have a winning season,” she said. “If we keep developing, I think we’ll have a good shot at making the NCAAs in the near future.”
Indeed, development will be vital, as Fredrick will work with just one senior — Amanda Alles — and a total of six returning letterwinners.
But Fredrick said she will have an assortment of leaders on the floor at all times. She expects Westman (189 kills, 123 blocks in 2010) and 5-10 sophomore Candice Thomas (238 kills, 92 blocks) to lead at the net, and she also has a trio of talented setters in Alles (619 assists), junior Kendra Glendenning (382 assists) and sophomore Stephanie Thelen (110 assists).
Westman said the Rebels are ready to surprise opponents.
“We want to win some preseason tournaments,” she said. “We’d also like to place top-three in our conference, and our ultimate goal is to win the MWC tournament.”
The Rebels also will face Northern Colorado and UC Davis in this weekend’s tournament. Home play will begin Sept. 9 in the UNLV Invitational at Cox Pavilion.