After leading the majority of the third set, Wyoming looked to avoid a sweep from Fresno State. But with a strong finisher like senior offensive hitter Desiree Sukhov, the ‘Dogs were not going to extend the game to a fourth set.
It was the Cowgirls’ serve and the ‘Dogs needed one more point to win, 24-23. As Fresno State fans cheered to distract the opposing team’s serve, the Bulldogs carried the momentum to recover the ball.
The rally ended in the hands of Bulldog Ella Rud as she assisted the ball to Sukhov. Sukhov then rose above the net for a finishing blow to seal the win for the final set. That final kill would be Sukhov’s 17th of the night, leading Fresno State in total kills.
Fresno State swept Wyoming in sets 29-27, 25-22 and 25-23 on Saturday, Oct. 2, at the Save Mart Center.
“[Sukhov’s] fantastic. She does it all for our team,” head coach Jonathan Winder said. “She’s absolutely one of the best players in our conference. She’s been working really hard on her hitting and so that was really neat tonight to see her hit well against a good block and a good defensive team.”
Sukhov also had a season-high in hitting percentage with .500. This is her second-highest game in total kills, following 19 kills against UC Riverside. In this season so far, she totals 133 kills with an average hitting percent of .166.
Fresno State attacked quickly in the first set against Wyoming. Rud gave the ‘Dogs their first kill after the Cowgirls’ first serve of the game.
After a Wyoming kill, Fresno State went on a 4-0 run to take a fast lead, 5-1. The Cowgirls fought back in a high-scoring, back-and-forth set but couldn’t break the Bulldog’s three-point lead.
The freshman Rud was key to starting the Bulldogs offense. She scored six of her 10 total kills in the first set. She got her second double-double of the year, finishing with 10 kills and 10 digs.
But Cowgirl Naya Shimé cut the lead from a kill and after a Bulldog attacking error, Fresno State’s lead was 18-17. Winder called a timeout after that play.
“In that [timeout], we were playing well. We just needed to execute and be a little bit more disciplined,” Winder said. “The things that were easier we weren’t handling very well.”
Wyoming got its first lead of the game, 24-23, forcing another timeout from Fresno State. But the ‘Dogs responded with a kill from Rud and a service ace by Julia Handy. From there the Bulldogs kept the lead the rest of the set, winning the first set after a Wyoming attack error, 29-27.
The second set was the same story.
The Bulldogs took the lead in the beginning at 8-3. Sukhov started the run with 2 kills, followed by a kill from Savanah Smith, Brooke Cowie and Amaria Kelley.
After a Wyoming timeout, there was still no answer against Fresno State as they got their biggest lead of the night, 21-13.
Winder said their improvement in passing is what’s been winning them sets. Leading the Bulldogs in assists was Mikayla Weiss with 28 total assists, followed by Cowie with 14. Winder talked about the relationship between Weiss and Sukhov.
“Mikayla and [Sukhov] have a great kind of connection and so they both hit really well,” Winder said. “[Weiss] did a really good job to distribute the ball and make some plays to win.”
Fresno State took the second set, 25-22.
Wyoming was not giving up, and their final efforts led to more lead changes in the third set. An attack error from Fresno State gave Wyoming their first points of the set. After two kills from Sukhov and Smith, Cowgirl Kayla Mazzocca responded with a service ace to tie it at 2-2.
It was a close battle for multiple serves until Wyoming had 5 kills and two straight serving aces to get a 9-5 lead, forcing a Bulldog timeout. This was Wyoming’s biggest lead of the night, and Fresno State kept making errors to add to the lead.
“We just weren’t playing with the energy and intensity and urgency to win,” Winder said. “We kind of like thought ‘We won two sets, so we can cruise to the victory line,’ but Wyoming’s a good team.”
After Winder coached the urgency back into his team, the ‘Dogs had three straight kills, one from Rud and two from Smith. Then, Rud scored two straight serving aces to tie the game, 9-9.
It became a battle for the lead between both teams the rest of the set.
After two attack errors from Fresno State, Wyoming took the lead in the third set, 18-17. But Rud assisted Kelley’s kill to tie the game again for Fresno State. As the cheers of Bulldog fans filled the Save Mart Center, the team rode the momentum and took control of the lead the rest of the game.
A blocked shot from Fresno State gave them the lead 19-18, and Wyoming had no response, following with two attack errors.
Fresno State won the third and final set, 25-23.
The Bulldogs are now 2-2 in the Mountain West play and 6-6 overall. They travel to San Diego next to play against San Diego State on Thursday, Oct. 7.