Nevada volleyball team attracts national attention
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The drive from Sacramento to Reno last night took just over 2 hours, a trip that went quickly for the Nevada volleyball team after pulling out a hard-fought five-game win at Sac State.
But it wasn't as quick as the Wolf Pack's 90-minute loss at Hawaii earlier this month, one that bordered on the embarrassing.
No. 11 Hawaii (18-4, 12-0 WAC) at Nevada (13-8, 9-4)
» Tomorrow, 4 p.m., HST
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» Series: Hawaii leads 27-1
"It was probably our worst match of the year," Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said yesterday. "But we've gotten better."
The Wolf Pack has also received plenty of national attention since then. Senior outside hitter Teal Ericson, named both the national and Western Athletic Conference player of the week on Oct. 15, appears in "Faces in the Crowd" in this week's issue of Sports Illustrated.
"That was just phenomenal for her, the team, the school and the conference," Scruggs said. "She hasn't played as well since, but it's a really neat thing for her."
Scruggs' comments were made prior to last night's match against the Hornets. In the five-game win, Ericson had 18 kills and 15 digs as Nevada won 30-27, 30-32, 21-30, 30-25, 16-14 in 2 hours and 33 minutes.
The Wolf Pack outdug the Hornets 106-101 and outblocked them 22-7.
Nevada (13-8, 9-4) puts a four-match win streak on the line tomorrow when it hosts No. 11 Hawaii (18-4, 12-0).
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They haven't started thinking about their "Farewell Tour." But this week is it for Hawaii's Juliana Sanders and Kari Gregory, the two Rainbow Wahine seniors on the travel roster for the Western Athletic Conference matches at Nevada tomorrow and Fresno State on Friday.
"I haven't thought about it being a farewell tour," Sanders said yesterday. "I'm just taking it one game at a time. When it ends, it ends.
"We just need to keep the intensity level up, not get overconfident and work harder than the other teams.
"(Nevada) is always a tough place to play. They have a great program and not a team to be underestimated. And playing at home is always an advantage."
Hawaii (18-4, 12-0 WAC) has survived several battles in the Virginia Street Gym. One of the toughest was 2004, when the Wahine were pushed to five before winning 30-27, 28-30, 28-30, 32-30, 15-13.
Hawaii will see a tired but happy Nevada team tomorrow. The Wolf Pack (13-8, 9-4) won at Sacramento State for the first time ever in the annual home-and-home series, 30-27, 30-32, 21-30, 30-25, 16-14. Karly Sipherd had 29 kills and Nevada had 106 digs, with five players in double-digits in the 2-hour, 33-minute victory.
The win almost atones for Nevada's loss Oct. 18 to No. 13 New Mexico State. The Wolf Pack had leads of 12-5 and 14-9 in Game 5 before losing to the Aggies 30-27, 30-18, 29-31, 29-31, 17-15.
Nevada has now won nine of its last 11, the only losses coming to New Mexico State and at Hawaii. The Wahine won the Oct. 5 meeting in 90 minutes, 30-13, 30-25, 30-19.
"I feel like we've gotten better since then, it was probably our worst match of the season," Nevada coach Devin Scruggs said. "Unfortunately, Hawaii has gotten better as well.
"It would be huge to beat Hawaii. They are just so physical. They are scary."
The Wahine are 6-1 since seeing the Wolf Pack, the only loss coming at No. 1 Nebraska on Oct. 21.
"I think we continue to get better every time out," Hawaii coach Dave Shoji said, "with the exception of Nebraska.
"That Nevada almost beat New Mexico State certainly got our attention. By all rights, they should have won and they're playing way better than they did here.
"And it's always been tough to play up there. The elements shouldn't be a factor, but sometimes the gym can be freezing. The thin air affects the serves, the setter's hands get dry and it's hard to handle the ball."
Wahine sophomore setter Stephanie Brandt has been forewarned.
"I've never played there and I'll just see how the ball feels when we get there," she said.
The Rainbow Wahine can clinch their 12th WAC title with wins at Nevada and Fresno State (5-9, 3-9). The back-to-back matches are not ideal, Shoji said, but -- because Fresno State had a football game Saturday -- it was preferable to waiting until Sunday to play the match.
"A lot of the conferences do it, Pac-10, Big Ten," Shoji said. "It's not ideal, but this way we can play two straight nights and then get home."
Hawaii closes the WAC regular season at home against San Jose State on Nov. 8 and Utah State on Nov. 11.
San Jose State rocked
San Jose State was leading Pacific 30-26, 26-25 when a 5.6-magnitude earthquake forced the postponement of last night's nonconference match in Spartan Gym. The match will be resumed at a later date.