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Rebels ride volleyball win streak

When Allison Keeley took over the UNLV volleyball team in 2004, she vowed to return the program to respectability.

The Rebels could help the fourth-year coach solidify that promise tonight when they play 12th-ranked Brigham Young in their Mountain West Conference opener.

At 8-1, UNLV is off to its best start in team history. Though Keeley is pleased with the early results, she has vowed to lift her team past big-name programs.

“They say the reason we didn’t get into the (NCAA) tournament last year is because we didn’t have any wins over top-20 teams,” said Keeley, whose squad has won seven straight matches. “This is one of our opportunities to do that.”

The Rebels played a respectable nonconference schedule, gaining noteworthy wins over Arizona State, Washington State and Loyola Marymount and losing to Texas Tech. Though BYU (6-2) will turn the heat up a notch, Keeley thinks her players are ready.

“(The Cougars) are very balanced, and they’ll have a lot of very experienced players on the floor,” Keeley said. “But we think it’s a very fair matchup.”

UNLV has struggled against the Cougars in the past, losing 10 straight and 20 of 22 matches between the teams. But Keeley said she sees something in her squad that was lacking a year ago.

“We’ve just been playing very consistently,” she said. “And Melody (Nua) has done a good job at getting the ball to the right players.”

Indeed, the junior setter has earned three tournament Most Valuable Player awards this season, thanks in part to her 13-assists-per-game average.

Nua’s main beneficiary has been senior outside hitter Maria Aladjova, who has registered a team-best seven double-doubles. She leads the Rebels in kills (136) and kills per game (4.25) and is second on the team in aces (seven), digs (127) and digs per game (3.22).

The Rebels will host today’s 7 p.m. match at Cox Pavilion. Keeley said she hopes the home-court advantage will make a difference.

“We hope it’s good for at least four or five points,” she said.

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