Nevada volleyball beats Utah State | NevadaAppeal.com

Nevada volleyball beats Utah State

THOMAS RANSON
Appeal News Service

RENO – The University of Nevada volleyball team continued to roll in the Western Athletic Conference by knocking off its fourth foe Wednesday night.

Behind a dominant front line, Nevada swept Utah State 30-25, 30-23 and 30-16 in front of 357 fans at the Virginia Street Gym. The Wolf Pack improved to 4-0 in the WAC, 10-6 overall, and travel to Hawai’i Sunday to take on the 15th-ranked Rainbow Wahine.

“We’re playing in our gym in front of our crowd and we came in fairly confident that we can beat this team and we did,” said outside hitter Teal Ericson, who led Nevada with 12 kills. “Now we’re focused on Hawai’i.”

Karly Sipherd also registered 12 kills and freshman Sage Aune recorded a career-high 9 kills, one more than her previous high, and tallied seven block assists. Tristin Johnson dished out 35 assists and Allison Hernandez led in digs with 12

“We’re pretty confident. The New Mexico State game really helped us a lot,” Hernandez said. “Last year they (Utah State) were pretty good and dropped us in the WAC from second to fourth.”

Nevada coach Devin Scruggs feels comfortable with the team’s three-game win streak heading into Hawai’i.

“We’re real happy with the momentum going into Hawai’i,” Scruggs said. “We’re playing well. We’re healthy for the most part and we’re doing some nice things.”

Coming off an upset over No. 22 New Mexico State on Saturday, Scruggs hoped the team would have its focus solely on Utah State.

“I was not expecting it but I thought it was possible being on a high from New Mexico State. They didn’t do that and I was pleased,” said Scruggs about a possible letdown.

Scruggs was impressed with her front line’s attacks and blocks as Nevada tallied 50 kills and 12 team blocks. Aune’s performance caught Scruggs’ eye.

“We had one change in the middles putting the freshman there,” Scruggs said about Aune. “She was a blocking machine. When you block that many balls, you really frustrate them.”

Nevada now turns to Hawai’i, one of the top volleyball programs in the country.

Although Hawai’i posts a 9-4 overall record and is tied with Nevada for first in the WAC, the Rainbow Wahine have won 110 straight league matches including 10 WAC titles dating back to 1998. Nevada is 0-12 against the Rainbow Wahine.

Scruggs said playing on Hawai’i’s home floor can be intimidating especially when the Rainbow Wahine averages about 10,000 fans a night.

“It’s the whole environment that’s a big factor,” Scruggs added. “You’re in Hawai’i and you’re playing in front of 6 to 10,000 people. It’s on live TV and no doubt a distraction. I don’t like going there. It’s a neat experience and a neat atmosphere.”

With five freshmen playing for the Wolf Pack, Ericson said the trip is a great opportunity to play in an energized atmosphere. Ericson, who has played in Hawai’i twice, said the fans generally support both Hawai’i and its opposition.

“We tell them (freshmen) that there are 10,000 fans and you have no idea,” Ericson said. “It will be a great experience. It’s fun to play in Hawai’i. If we make a really good try, they (crowd) will clap for us. They know volleyball and appreciate volleyball so it’s nice to play in front of that crowd.”

Scruggs said the freshmen will benefit from playing Hawai’i.

“Hopefully they’ve had enough playing experience,” the 10th-year coach said. “They’ll be nervous. It’s definitely a pretty big-time atmosphere. It’s something big they will never see anywhere else.”