The UTPB volleyball team entered the 2023 season picked to finish 13th in the Lone Star Conference this season.

Nearly a month into the season, the Falcons have already looked like a team that’s bound to defy expectations.

UTPB begins conference play this week with a 9-2 overall record, which already includes victories against other LSC schools from nonconference tournaments.

The Falcons will be challenged when they host Angelo State (11-2, 1-0) in a 2 p.m. game Saturday at Falcon Dome.

The Rambelles defeated Western New Mexico in a sweep on Sept. 20 to begin conference play.

Angelo State is one of the two teams to have defeated UTPB this season.

The Rambelles swept the Falcons in the opening weekend of the season at a tournament in San Angelo on Sept. 2.

Since then, the Falcons have gone 6-1 which included winning all four games in UTPB’s Dr. Aicinena Invitational from Sept. 7-9.

“I think the mindset is to continue to improve,” UTPB head coach Tim Loesch said. “The players know we have a target on our backs. Teams aren’t sleeping on us like they were at the beginning of the season. They’re preparing for us and have a game plan. We have to continue to evolve and improve to overcome that. We love that we’ve played some good conference teams already. But we’re eager to start the real part of the season and make a run.”

Last week, the Falcons went 2-1 at Lubbock Christian’s home tournament.

UTPB began the tournament with a 3-2 win over Lubbock Christian before battling back from two sets down to defeat Oklahoma Christian in five sets.

The Falcons’ lone loss came in a 3-0 defeat to Texas Woman’s University.

UTPB will return to Lubbock Christian for a conference game on Oct. 14.

“Lubbock’s always tough on their home floor,” Loesch said. “It was great to get a win. We have to go back there and play them in the regular season. It’s nice to establish that we can play well there.”

Loesch was proud of his team’s effort and determination in the victory over Oklahoma Christian.

“At first, it was ‘hey look, we have to play,’” Loesch said while describing the game. “(Oklahoma Christian) had lost pretty badly the previous day so they had changed up the lineup and our girls took them lightly. At first, we just started playing our game and we did that and almost came back but then fell flat. In the second set, we got down and then we made some defensive changes. Mostly, though, our team started believing in itself. I think that calmed down the players. They were able to find some success.”

While it wasn’t an ideal start, Loesch and his players gladly took the five-set win over Oklahoma Christian.

“I thought it was good to see,” Loesch said. “We don’t plan on that happening. We had our starters in. It’s going to happen later in the season. We’re going to see good teams that earn a set or two against us and we have to have that determination to keep fighting and bounce back.”

Following Saturday’s game, the Falcons will face Midwestern State in a 6 p.m. contest Sept. 29 in Wichita Falls before facing Texas Woman’s University at 2 p.m. the next day in Denton.

They’ll face Cameron at home at 6 p.m. Oct. 6 before going up against defending national champions West Texas A&M at 2 p.m. the next day at Falcon Dome.

Right now, however, Loesch said his team is just eager to face Angelo State again.

“They’re a good team,” Loesch said. “We’ll have to play our best. We’ve shown that we can play with them but that’s not our goal. We want to beat them. We think we’ve gotten better in some areas but we’ll be glad to play them at home. We want revenge. We’re eager to show them that we’ve improved.”