RENO - Houston, Nevada has a problem.
Behind Jamie Houston's 21 kills, the University of Hawaii volleyball team shut down one of the conference's hottest teams, beating Nevada in straight games Thursday night in front of 963 fans at the Virginia Street Gym. Hawaii won 30-17, 30-20 and 30-27.
"They're so strong defensively and offensively. We have to have every single player on their game," Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said. "Their defense was really phenomenal."
Nevada, which had won nine of its previous 11 matches, dropped to 9-5 in the Western Athletic Conference, 13-9 overall, while Hawaii stayed undefeated in the WAC at 13-0, 19-4 overall.
"I felt we played pretty good defense. We defended well," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said.
The Rainbow Wahine neutralized the Wolf Pack's hot attack of Karly Sipherd and Teal Ericson as they recorded 54 digs and eight total blocks. Sipherd and Ericson combined for 21 kills with Ericson leading the team with 14.
"Hawaii is a fantastic team. Hanging with them that long is an accomplishment, but it wasn't enough," Ericson said in referring to the third game. "At the beginning of each game, we kept up with them for a while, but we need to be consistent."
Nevada, which has lost 16 straight to Hawaii in WAC play, led most of the third game and saw its final lead disappear after Houston's kill tied it at 20. Both teams battled back and forth with the biggest lead being three points (Hawaii 23-20) before Nevada tied it at 25 on Allison Hernandez's kill.
"We just came out with more intensity at the end," said Hernandez, who switched from libero to outside hitter for the last game. "We kind of got in a funk (in the first game). They got a run on us and it went downhill from there."
With Hernandez in the front for the second time this year, Shoji said controlling the junior hitter was tough. Hernandez, who had six kills and nine digs, also played in the front in Nevada's five-game win over Sacramento State on Tuesday. Dana Henry replaced Hernandez at libero.
"They were down 0-2 at New Mexico State," Shoji said. "We were just not ready to defend her (Hernandez)."
Ashley Miller, who dished out a team-high 37 assists, said Nevada's inconsistency prevented it from recording its first win over the Rainbow Wahine.
"I really felt like we could compete with Hawaii and we did," she said. "We need to be more consistent. Hopefully, we'll see them in the WAC championships."
The Wolf Pack closes out the home season on Saturday when it hosts San Jose State at 7 p.m. Seniors Ericson, Sipherd, Miller and Henry will be honored before the game.
"It's going to be sad to see them go," Scruggs said. "They're a big part of the program. Hopefully we'll get this crowd on Saturday night."
A Nevada win will also benefit its seeding for the conference tournament in two weeks.
"We're fighting for the third seed in conference so we don't play Hawaii in the second round ... assuming we win the first round," Scruggs said.