Wolf Pack volleyball has NCAA invitation | NevadaAppeal.com

Wolf Pack volleyball has NCAA invitation

THOMAS RANSON
Appeal News Service

RENO – It was a great weekend if you’re a Wolf Pack fan.

After the University of Nevada football team pulled off one of the biggest upset in school history and the men’s basketball team knocked off interstate rival UNLV, the Wolf Pack volleyball team earned an at-large bid to play in the NCAA tournament for the second straight year.

Nevada (18-12) has been to the Big Dance in four of the last five years.

“Absolutely exciting,” Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said. “It’s an exciting week for Wolf Pack sports overall.”

The Pack, who played competitive against No. 8 Hawai’i in the Western Athletic Conference tournament, will travel to defending national champion Stanford (25-5) to play the Cardinal on Friday at 7 p.m. at the Maples Pavilion in Palo Alto.

“We played so well against Hawai’i,” said Scruggs, whose team lost in the WAC Tournament semifinals against the Rainbow Wahine on Friday night (30-19, 22-30, 30-28, 33-31). “We got a great spot to go to. We played Stanford last year and almost beat them.”

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Scruggs likes her team’s chances against No. 5 Stanford for a number of reasons.

Nevada forced Stanford to five games in last season’s SBC/Sands Regency tournament at the Virginia Street Gym.

This year, Stanford is without leading hitters Ogonna Nnamani and Fallon grad Jennifer Hucke. Nnamani, who was selected to participate in the Olympics last year, recorded 25 kills against the Pack.

Stanford will also be playing without star freshman Cynthia Barboza, who underwent knee surgery earlier this month, and All-American candidate setter Bryn Kehoe, who broke her hand during practice last month.

“We know them pretty well,” Scruggs said. “(Barboza’s) is out with a knee injury. They’re not going to be in their top lineup.”

Playing Hawai’i as tough as they did on Friday – they nearly took the Rainbow Wahine to a fifth game – Scruggs is fortunate to get the bid and extend the season for her three seniors: Salaia Salave’a, Christine Harms and Lindsay Holda.

“We felt we were peaking at the right time,” Scruggs said. “We prepared for the worst and we were going to hope for the best. The fact we get another chance is exciting.”

Scruggs also said beating then-No. 21 California in September helped the Pack’s chances to earn an at-large bid.

“I think you always have a shot if you have a Top 25 win,” Scruggs said.

Nevada had to come back from a 2-1 game deficit to beat the Golden Bears, 35-33, 27-30, 30-32, 30-23 and 16-14, in the Circus Circus/Molten Invitational. The Pack, though, should have beaten then-No. 13 UCLA earlier that month when they had four match points.

Hawai’i (25-6), the seventh seed in the NCAA tournament, will play Texas State (17-14) in Austin in the State College regional. Utah State (21-12), the WAC runner-up, faces No. 4 Arizona (22-5) in the Palo Alto bracket.

New Mexico State, which lost to Utah State twice this year, most recently in the WAC tournament, was unable to pick one of the remaining 33 slots.

According to Scruggs, sending three WAC teams to the tournament shows how much respect the conference has gained this season.

“It shows we are getting some respect in the country,” she said. “We have played tough schedules. We need to continue to schedule tough teams.

“It’s going to be beating teams outside our conference that’s important.”

Nevada, which hasn’t advanced past the first round, lost in straight sets to Wichita State last year and to Pacific in five games in 2002.