Fresno State freshman Lauren Torres (right) attempts a spike during the Bulldogs’ 3-2 loss to the Nevada Wolf Pack Thursday night at the Save Mart Center. Photo by Khlarissa Agee/The Collegian
The Fresno State volleyball team (5-12, 0-3 Mountain West) were defeated by the Nevada Wolf Pack (4-9, 1-2) 3-2 on Thursday. The Bulldogs were just three points away from a sweep, but Nevada rallied back to win the final three sets.
Fresno State, which led 2-0 in Set 3, led 22-19 in the frame. That was until Nevada’s 6-foot-3-inch middle blocker Tessa Lea’ea earned a kill that sparked six straight points for the Wolf Pack to win the set 25-22 and force a fourth frame.
The momentum kept building for Nevada, and Lea’ea created more and more problems for the ‘Dogs. She finished with 24 kills, 16 of which came in the final three sets.
“Any team in the country would have a hard time defending [Lea’ea] because she’s up so high,” Fresno State head coach Lauren Netherby-Sewell said. “We had a tough one. [We] just couldn’t stop their rhythm, couldn’t stop their middles.”
The Bulldogs held match point again in the fourth set, but 25 points weren’t enough to settle it. With a 24-23 lead, Lea’ea came up big for the Wolf Pack again, scoring kills for Nevada and setting up a 26-25 set point. A service ace from Taylor Rothfuss tied the game at 2-2, forcing a fifth and final set.
In the fifth set, Fresno State fought back from an early deficit to tie at 11-11, before Nevada called the final timeout of the game. Out of the break, Lea’ea had two kills to give Nevada the 13-11 advantage, but Jamie Lee-Morrow’
s kill put the Bulldogs back within one. However, back-to-back Fresno State attack errors gave Nevada the set and match.
Fresno State had 26 total attacking errors compared with Nevada’s 16.
“I think Nevada had their backs to the wall, and so it started playing a little bit harder, and we couldn’t adjust defensively,” Netherby-Sewell said. “We had new people in new positions, and they just could not find the ball. Blocking-wise, it was a really tough kind of match for us.
“We just didn’t stop them. We didn’t get them out of rhythm, and so they just gained more confidence and momentum as the games went along.”
Junior outside hitter Zana Bowens led the Bulldogs with a double-double, 19 digs and 15 kills. Bowens also added five service aces. Carly Scarbrough and Maci Murdock each added 15 kills as well.
In the first set, the ‘Dogs and Wolf Pack played evenly. The two teams tied nine times and had four lead changes before the score reached a 15-15 tie. The Bulldogs broke the tie with five unanswered points capped by a kill from Molly Pearson. A highlight spike by Murdock and a set error by Nevada closed out the 25-19 win for the ‘Dogs.
Nevada scored the first point of the second set, but the Bulldogs answered with seven straight points to set up a comfortable lead that grew to as many as eight points at 22-14.
The ‘Dogs were only three points away from taking the second set, when the Wolf Pack rallied back on five straight points to shrink Fresno State’s lead to 22-19. The Bulldogs ended the run and closed out the set on a kill from Bowens to win 25-21. Fresno State had 19 kills in the Set 2, led by six from Maci Murdock.
Both teams finished with 68 kills, though Nevada had the better hitting percentage at .321 compared with the ‘Dogs’ .253. While the Bulldogs did have 10 more attack errors, the Wolf Pack had 13 service errors to the Bulldogs’ six.
The Bulldogs squandered a chance for their first conference win this season and will play the only other winless team in the conference this Saturday.
“We’ve got to do a better job passing and we’ve got to do a better job defensively,” Netherby-Sewell said. “We’ve got a lot to learn. We’ll watch a lot of video.”
The Bulldogs fall to 5-12 overall and 0-3 in Mountain West play. They will next host the San Jose State Spartans (3-12, 0-2) on Saturday at 4 p.m.