The Nevada Volleyball (2-7, 0-0 MWC) team has played a slew of difficult nonconference games. This past week, the team went to Honolulu, Hawaii to participate in the Outrigger Resorts Volleyball Challenge. They played three games in three days starting with the Baylor Bears on Thursday, the BYU Cougars on Friday, and the host team, the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors on Saturday. BYU, who is currently ranked 10th in the nation, Baylor, and Hawaii all made the 2016 NCAA Tournament.
Below is a game-by-game recap of the week.
Last year, the Bears made their first NCAA Tournament appearance since 2011. The club overachieved as they lost three starters to graduation and their best player to injury before the season even started. Their youth in the starting lineup allowed for the emergence of a star in Katie Staiger who became a unanimous All-Big 12 player last year.
This past Thursday, Staiger, now the senior veteran leader, presented matchup problems all night for the Wolf Pack. Staiger, who recorded 19 kills and 16 digs, was complimented by freshman setter Hannah Lockin who tallied 52 assists on the night.
The duo sparked a Bears offensive attack that dominated in the first two sets. In the first set, Baylor jumped out to an early 8-1 lead as five out of those eight points came from kills from either Staiger or Lockin. The Wolf Pack failed to bounce back following the blazing start as Baylor closed out the first set 25-10.
The second set followed the same script as the Bears were able to create separation with an early 10-3 lead, which eventually ended in a 25-13 set for Baylor.
Nevada showed signs of life in the third set. With the Bears leading 15-14, an error by Staiger and three consecutive kills by freshman Sam Hayward gave Nevada the lead and the momentum toward the home stretch of the set. Following a timeout by head coach Lee Nelson, the Wolf Pack secured the set with two key kills by Shayla Hoeft and a set-ending block by Hayward.
In the fourth set, Nevada tried to ride the momentum as they went point-for-point with Baylor. Deadlocked at 24, Hoeft scored a kill to take the 25-24 lead. However, they were unable to close out the set as Staiger was able to swing the momentum by scoring three kills to take a 29-27 set and match victory.
The Cougars were another difficult challenge for the Wolf Pack as they too made the NCAA Tournament last year. BYU was able to advance to the second round of the tournament before being ousted by fourth ranked Texas. This year, the undefeated Cougars are primed to make a deeper round and are currently ranked 10th in the nation. The Wolf Pack played a much better game in the second game of the Outrigger Tournament. However, they lost the game in straight sets.
After a fast 6-2 start for the Wolf Pack, the Cougars weathered the storm and tied the game at eight. Later in the set, BYU went on a 7-3 run to take a 21-14 lead, eventually securing a 25-18 set win.
In the second set, both teams scored back and forth, with the game being tied at 15. A 4-1 run created the necessary separation for the opposing team to pull away. The Cougars won the set 25-22.
The final set presented was much like the second wherein the Wolf Pack was able to keep pace through the middle part of the set. However, BYU was again able to pull off a 6-2 run to take a 21-15 lead that eventually led to their victory in the set and match.
Sophomore Camille Davey was a standout for the Wolf Pack as she had a match-high 15 digs. Dalyn Burns was one dig short of a double-double as she recorded nine digs and 23 assists.
In the final game of the tournament, the Wolf Pack came out firing off of the block. In the first set, Nevada stormed to an early 6-2 lead to open the match against the Hawaii Rainbow Warriors. That run was sparked by a combination of suffocating defense by Ayla Fresenius and a couple of kills by Hoeft.
However, the Rainbow Warriors were able to weather the storm as they slowly fought their way back into the set. With a kill by Casey Castillo to close the deficit to one point at 13-12, Nelson called a timeout to try and stop the bleeding.
The set continued on to be a back-and-forth affair. With the score at 20-19 Hawaii, the Rainbow Warriors’ Savannah Kahakai scored a critical service ace. Another duo of kills from Castillo helped extend the lead to 23-20. Nevada matched a service error by Hawaii on the following play bringing the score to 24-21. Burns closed the gap by tacking on a kill. However, the Warriors were able to score the set-winning point on the following play.
The following set followed the same storyline wherein the Wolf Pack was able to gain an early lead at 4-2. The Rainbow Warriors then rallied in the middle of the set to edge out the Wolf Pack later on in the set, 25-23.
In the final set, the Rainbow Warriors flipped the script as they ran off to a 7-2 lead to open the set. They were able to control the deficit for the duration of the set and easily cruise to a win the deciding set and complete the sweep.
Beginning on Thursday, Nevada will host a tournament of their own. They will host and play against three nonconference opponents in Sacramento State, Missouri, and Pepperdine. This will be the conclusion of their nonconference slate as they get ready to begin play in the Mountain West Conference.