WAC volleyball tournament begins today | NevadaAppeal.com

WAC volleyball tournament begins today

THOMAS RANSON
Nevada Appeal News Service

Home sweet home.

After an exhausting two-week road trip to close out the regular season, the University of Nevada volleyball team returns home to host the Western Athletic Conference Volleyball Tournament this week at Lawlor Events Center.

“I can’t imagine if this was on the road again with this kind of schedule,” Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said.

No. 4 Nevada takes on No. 5 San Jose State today at Lawlor Events Center at 5 p.m. in the quarterfinals with the winner advancing to the semifinals on Thanksgiving Day. The winner of the Nevada match will more than likely face No.1 Hawai’i, the 12th ranked team in the country, at 7:30 p.m.

Coming back to Reno takes a huge burden off the ragged Wolf Pack, losers of four consecutive matches. Nevada has not been able to solve the mysteries of playing away from the Silver State. It has lost only twice in Reno this year (Sacramento State and Hawaii) at its regular home, the Virginia Street Gym.

“We beat every team at home except for Hawaii (in league),” Scruggs said. “We certainly play well at home. The home court and the home crowd has certainly helped us. We’ve been using the home court advantage to get past certain teams and win in five games.”

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Even though Nevada will play at Lawlor Events Center, Scruggs said the team enjoyed playing there in last year’s tournament.

“It was different but we liked it,” she said. “We liked the atmosphere and it’s certainly larger and the crowd’s further away. But anything to still be in Reno is better for us.”

Closing out the season with four losses, though, was something Scruggs didn’t expect.

Scruggs said the academic burden couldn’t have been any heavier for her club during their season-ending, two-week road trip. She said the pressure of catching up on missed homework and spending countless hours in the opposing team’s libraries mentally drained her team before their matches.

“I felt very bad for the girls. They’re missing a ton of class and I couldn’t do anything about it,” Scruggs said. “The WAC scheduled our schedule and there’s no way to change any of it. Unfortunately we had two tough weekends.”

The 10th-year coach said during last week’s stint in Idaho, the team had almost three days between its games in Moscow and Boise.

“A lot of study hall, a lot of sleep, a lot of eating,” Scruggs said about what the team did during the span. “There’s so much down time that when the match comes along, there’s so many things going on. It’s tough to be on the road that long, stressing about academics. We went to the library in Boise and studied there all day.”

Scruggs figures that her team must win this week’s Western Athletic Conference tournament in order to advance to the NCAA tournament. Although her club has a win over a ranked team, No. 21 New Mexico State, Scruggs said their last three road losses puts a big blemish on the team’s resume.

Last year, Nevada advanced to the NCAAs despite losing to Hawai’i in the WAC semifinals. A win over a ranked team plus key road wins gave the Wolf Pack an at-large bid.

Nevada could have de ja vu with this year’s tournament. Scruggs said if Nevada beats San Jose State, then it would meet Hawai’i in the semifinals like last year’s tournament.

“I think if I’m Hawai’i, I’m probably bummed that we got the fourth seed,” Scruggs said. “They probably would not want to play as early as they have to although we didn’t play them well the first time.”

Besides Hawai’i and New Mexico State, Scruggs said the rest of the league has the ability to play well in the tournament.

“Idaho is playing well and I think Boise is playing well too,” she said. “All the teams have the potential to play pretty good even the bottom two teams (Fresno State and Louisiana Tech). They’re not bad teams.”