Nevada volleyball opens play in WAC event

RENO - The Nevada volleyball team can only hope its "new" home will be just as comforting as its old.

Because home court advantage was an issue after last season's tournament, the Western Athletic Conference tournament switched sites from the Virginia Street Gym to the 11,784-seat Lawlor Events Center.

"Some of the more vocal conference coaches definitely think it wasn't a fair venue," Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said about the Virginia Street Gym. "It will seem like nobody's there because of the size. It's going to feel very empty.

"We have the atmosphere there we have in the Virginia Street Gym. I think it's definitely a good change."

After losing to Utah State over the weekend, Nevada picked up the fourth seed for the tournament while Hawai'i enters as the No. 1 team followed by Utah State and New Mexico State, respectively.

"After Saturday, it was a pretty rough night," Scruggs said. "Any of those matches (loses to Fresno State, San Jose State, New Mexico State and Utah State on the road) would have avoided that. We just needed one more win."

More importantly, though, a win in the first round over Idaho will put the Pack against Hawai'i in the semifinals.

Nevada takes on the Vandals at 5 p.m. today with the winner to play Friday at 6:30 p.m. Hawai'i faces the winner of the Louisiana Tech-Boise State match (9:30 a.m.) tonight at 7:30 p.m.

"They've come a long real strong toward the end of the season," Scruggs said of Idaho. "It should be a good match."

The ninth-year coach said Monday's productive practice brightened the mood for Thursday's match.

"I was really pleased with the way they came back and practiced today (Monday)," Scruggs said.

Nevada, which finished 7-1 at home against WAC opponents, will be playing at Lawlor Events Center, home to the men's and women's basketball teams, for the first time. A portable court used for volleyball tournaments throughout Reno was placed in Lawlor on Tuesday.

Even though Nevada is playing at Lawlor, Scruggs still likes the idea of having the tourney held in Reno.

"I think we're very excited," she said. "Our home court advantage is lessened a little bit. It's always nice to sleep in your own bed and do the little routines you do at home. I'm just glad we get to play home in Reno."

Scruggs said many teams are capable of giving Hawai'i a run for the WAC title.

"San Jose State has the potential to be a spoiler," Scruggs said. "Utah State, New Mexico State and Nevada have the best chances to go the furthest. San Jose State has been playing well."

Scruggs, though, said her team needs to focus on Idaho before thinking of possibly playing the Rainbow Wahine.

"We need to do that first. We have to look at Idaho first," Scruggs said. "We do need to have a very balanced attack."

With Hawaii's success, Scruggs said their fan support is tremendous, and she thinks it helps with selecting Reno as the tournament site.

"Reno's a big draw for Hawai'i," Scruggs said. "They like to travel. They like to gamble. It's easy to fly into. The airport's close to the university."

Scruggs said the probable starters for today's game will be outside hitter Teal Ericson (6-0, So.), middle blocker Karly Sipherd (6-0, So.), middle blocker Salaia Salave'a (6-0, Sr.), setter Tristin Johnson (5-9), libero Christine Harms (5-9, Sr.), middle blocker Erika Ryan (6-1, Fr.) and outside hitter Carly Sorensen (5-10, Jr.)

Injury-wise, Scruggs said Ryan is still coping with a concussion she suffered last Tuesday against UC Davis. Ryan caught Sipherd's elbow in the face while going up for a kill against the Aggies.

"Right now, we should be okay," Scruggs said about the team's health.

The WAC title game is slated for 5 p.m. on Saturday and will be televised on College Sports Television (CSTV Charter cable 411).

Tickets can be purchased at the door or online at Tickets cost $10 a game for adults and $6 for senior citizens, children and students. All-session passes, which include eight matches, are available for $34 for adults and $19 for senior citizens, children and students.

"I just hope people will come out and spend Thanksgiving with Nevada volleyball," Scruggs said.


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