The Lady Rebels were predicted to finish fifth in the Mountain West in a preseason poll of coaches and media members released. That follows a season in which they went 22-11, appeared in the WNIT and finished third in the conference.
UNLV lost two starters from that team — twins Dylan and Dakota Gonzalez — and will have to try to fill that void.
That set the stage for Thurday’s UNLV women’s basketball media day and some pride from the Lady Rebels.
“We’re not going to be fifth,” junior Katie Powell said.
Boise State, which won the Mountain West tournament a season ago, was ranked first in the poll with 221 points. Wyoming was second (216), Colorado State third (211) and New Mexico fourth (186) just ahead of UNLV (165), which received two first-place votes.
“I did not like that,” Powell said. “New Mexico didn’t … play postseason so I was like ‘That doesn’t really make sense.’ I mean that’s fine. That’s just more fire under us to be even better in conference.”
The Preseason Player of the Year was New Mexico senior Cherise Beynon, a Canyon Springs grad.
Fifth starter spot up for grabs
UNLV did gain back one starter as Nikki Wheatley, who suffered a meniscus tear which required surgery last season, is healthy as the season begins. Now the Lady Rebels have one starting spot open with the twins leaving.
Guards Brooke Johnson and Wheatley will be joined by Paris Strawther and Katie Powell — both listed as forward/center.
“We’re trying a couple different people,” coach Kathy Olivier said. “I think the good news is that we have different options and we could go with a smaller, quick group (or) we could go with a bigger, maybe more experienced group.”
A few possible names are juniors Alyssa Anderson and Jordyn Bell and senior Simone Sheppard.
“Jordyn is definitely somebody who is going to play a lot of minutes and she’s a possible starter,” Olivier said. “You have Alyssa who had a few really good games last year.
”She’s a possible starter. You have Simone Sheppard who didn’t play a lot but worked extremely hard during the offseason. She’s a possible starter so it’s nice to have options and it just means you have more depth, too.”
Lady Rebels begin Nov. 10
The Lady Rebels will open their season Nov. 10, hosting Portland State at Cox Pavilion.
It will kick off the beginning of a tough nonconference schedule that includes two of last year’s final four teams — Mississippi State and Stanford.
UNLV will begin conference play Dec. 30 at Boise State.