By Javier Hernandez
The Nevada Volleyball team won a thriller this past Saturday at Virginia Street Gym defeating Fresno State in five sets. Madison Morell and Madison Foley led the offense with 20 kills each. Kathryn Groenweghe and Shayla Hoeft both eclipsed double digit kills. Lyndsay Anderson turned in another dominating performance — 59 assists, a single-match high.
The Wolf Pack struggled in the first set with multiple service errors that landed them in an 18-14 deficit. Bulldogs Hitter Aleisha Coates had her way, connecting on four kills, an ace and a block in the first set. Nevada rallied to cut the lead down to 23-21 with four straight kills — one by Foley and three by Morell. However, Fresno State was able to stop the bleeding and close out the set with a Jacquelin Hutcheson block.
The second set was a back and forth affair. With the score tied at nine, the Pack won a long rally which ended in a Hoeft block bringing a roar to the VSG. A follow-up block by Hoeft and an Anderson assisted kill by Morell stretched the lead to three. Anderson made her presence known, following up her 15 assist first set with another 14 in the second set. With the score 23-20 Nevada, Anderson closed the set with a spike and an assist to Groenweghe.
After falling behind early 6-3 in the third set, the Wolf Pack scored five straight via a block by Ayla Fresenius and two by Foley, a service ace by Nicole Burdo, and a kill by Foley. This helped shift the momentum towards the Pack who was able to ride it to take the set.
Nevada took a commanding 9-4 lead to begin the fourth set, forcing Fresno State to call a timeout. Morell and Foley sparked the Nevada offense exchanging kills for most of the set, with four apiece. However, Fresno State, which came into this game ranked No. 7 in the nation in service aces, rallied late with three straight aces to tie the game at 21-21. With the momentum on their side, the Bulldogs were able to complete the furious comeback and force a fifth set.
In the final set, the Wolf Pack took an early lead due to kills by Morell, Groenweghe, and Foley. Fresno State, once again rallied back to tie the game at 10-10. However, from that point on, Nevada never relinquished the lead and Foley capped her performance with the match-clinching kill.
Nevada improved to 4-1 in conference play and head coach Lee Nelson was pleased with the performance of his team on Saturday and the growth they’ve made thus far.
“Today we were a little up and down,” Nelson said. “Fresno came in and fought hard and competed and we didn’t play our best match. But we found a way to win and that’s huge. Overall we’re making huge strides.”
Foley, who was all over the floor making hustle plays and was vocal throughout the match, made an emphasis to rally her team when they lost momentum.
“I’ve been taking it upon myself to just be loud and just try to get everybody going because that helps us so much to win games,” Foley said. “We’re a good team but when our energy is up and we’re all communicating together it’s completely different.”.
Morell was pleased with the win today but hopes the team continues to improve mentally going forward.
“We need to learn a little bit more about our mental game and be a little bit more confident in what we do well as a team,” Morell said. “We need to work on that in practice this week but it’s in our control.”
The Wolf Pack will play Colorado State on Thursday, one of the best teams in the Mountain West. Nelson believes his team will fare better than they did last season.
“We need to be good on the road,” Nelson said. “We’re gonna our hands full. We didn’t play well their last year but we’re a different team this year.”
Javier Hernandez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @SagebrushSports.