LAS VEGAS — The last time the UNLV Lady Rebels were ranked in a Top 25 poll was Jan. 18, 1994.
Lindy La Rocque was four years, one month and three days old.
Now, 29 years later, La Rocque, head coach at UNLV, and the Lady Rebels are back in the Associated Press poll, sitting 23rd. It’s the program’s highest ranking since March 9, 1993.
It also marks the first time a Mountain West Conference team has been ranked since Colorado State finished the 2016 season ranked 22nd.
The Lady Rebels (24-2 overall, 14-0 Mountain West), who are off to their best start since finishing 28-3 in 1989-90, claimed at least a share of the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship for the second straight season after defeating Boise State (13-14, 8-6), 76-63, Saturday afternoon.
The Lady Rebels, who received at least one vote in the poll the past three weeks, appeared in 115 AP Top 25 Polls between 1977 and 1994, rising as high as No. 2 for two weeks in February 1990.
And while the voters are finally recognizing their hard work, La Rocque knows there’s plenty of work left with the conference tournament right around the corner.
“Being ranked doesnt win us any games,” La Rocque told The Sporting Tribune on Monday morning. “It’s a cool milestone for the program, and for the staff, for the team, for just what we’ve done.”
But, the third-year coach added, it’s also a milestone that makes it harder the Lady Rebels to continue their winning way, as the target on their backs just got bigger.
“That’s a privilege we’ve kind of put ourselves in,” La Rocque added.
La Rocque – who defied the critics in her first year when the Lady Rebels were picked to finish ninth and finished second in the Mountain West, and followed that with a trip to the NCAA Tournament last season – calls this year’s squad “fun and interesting.”
Perhaps it’s because the Lady Rebels have deflected outside noise quite well.
Like when Las Vegas media members tried to spark conversation as to why that hadn’t been ranked yet. Or the fact they’ve sort of become a team that’s hard to dislike because there’s been no bravado to come along with a 15-game win streak.
“We have goals, we have plans for the people who come out and see us every day,” La Rocque said. “They want it for us because we deserve it. But (rankings are) not why we practice, that’s not why we play.
“The things we want to do are still in front of us, and that’s where our focus is.”
UNLV hosts San Jose State at the Thomas & Mack Center Thursday, Feb. 16, at 6:30 p.m. With a win, the Lady Rebels will take the outright claim to the Mountain West Conference regular-season championship outright.