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Unbeaten Lake Mead girls volleyball team short on seniors, long on talent

Teams with only one senior aren’t supposed to start 15-0.

They’re not supposed to pound opponents into near submission. They’re not supposed to have an abundance of mental toughness.

Someone forgot to tell that to the Lake Mead girls volleyball team.

The Eagles, who have only one senior — setter Jessica Rinaldi — on a nine-player roster, haven’t just won all 15 of their matches this year; they’ve lost only two games in the process.

“The girls that have been to state the last two years, their motto is ‘Not this time,’ ” Lake Mead coach Diana Lewis said. “They’re not going to get down on themselves this time. They’re not going to quit this time. That’s their mentality this year. They want to get the job done.”

The Eagles finished 29-9 last year, losing to Owyhee in a Class 1A state semifinal for the second straight year.

But this year has been different.

Other than a 3-2 win over Pahranagat Valley in the championship game of the Pahrump Valley tournament on Aug. 30, the Eagles have swept every match.

“Our goal from the very beginning of the season was to win every game,” Lewis said. “We lost two in Pahrump, but that’s it.”

They even beat Pahranagat Valley, a team that consistently gives the Eagles fits, twice in one day.

“It was like waking up on Christmas Eve and thinking you’re going to get something small and going under the tree and seeing something huge,” junior Amanda Wellman said about beating Pahranagat Valley. “It was amazing.”

Wellman and sophomore Ashley Newton have been the team’s big weapons up front.

Newton has 136 kills and 34 blocks. She’s also solid in the back row with a team-best 93 digs.

Wellman has 115 kills and 24 blocks, and has added 89 digs and 46 aces.

Rinaldi and junior Jocelyn Cox both have more than 100 assists in Lake Mead’s 4-2 offense.

Sam Herman, a junior, leads the team in aces (48) and blocks (40).

The key, though, seems to be balance. In all, five players have more than 20 kills. Seven have at least 20 blocks, and five have at least 60 digs.

“Everyone all together has gotten so much better,” Rinaldi said. “There’s so much potential on this team. Everyone is able to pull her own load.”

Even if they can’t, someone else is right there.

“This team is more of a family,” Wellman said. “We always have each other’s back. We’re always together. We all have the same goal. We all want to win.”

More importantly, the Eagles are willing to do whatever it takes to reach their goals.

“A bunch of people are incredibly committed to it this year,” Rinaldi said. “I know we’re all expecting to go to state and win, but we want to perfect everything before we go to state. Every match, everything counts. Every move we make in a game counts.”

Still, the state tournament is more than a month away.

Lake Mead’s next challenge is the six-team Liberty Christian tournament this weekend in Huntington Beach, Calif.

The Eagles open Southern League play at Trinity on Tuesday.

“Right now, it’s not about state. It’s about getting through the next game,” Lewis said. “I don’t want to ever overlook our next opponent. We have to focus and play our best.”

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