Smith and Sukhov lead the ‘Dogs in sweep against the Wolfpack

Bulldog Savanah Smith kills the ball against Nevada on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Save Mart Center. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

Senior outside hitters Desiree Sukhov and Savannah Smith were the difference makers in a sweep for the Fresno State volleyball team against Nevada on Sunday afternoon, winning the sets 25-21, 26-24, 25-12.

Sukhov, for the 10th time this season, led the ‘Dogs in kills, racking up 13 total in the win. Smith was a kill behind her getting 12, with her seventh double-digit kill match of the season.

Fresno State hit a season-best .396 as a team helping it get the win.

What Desiree Sukhov said she cares about most is not her personal performance but how to help the team compete hard in every match and do what it needs her to do to win.

“It is a team effort.I love my team so much, and everyone kind of did their job, and it transitioned into a successful play,” Sukhov said.

Smith was aggressive in getting kills in critical moments all match giving her team a chance to stay in it, and she also hit a career-best .611.

“I think I did pretty well working on my connection with my setter. I think [that] has been a huge important factor for this entire season,” Smith said. “My kills are not just by myself but my setter setting me up. She did a great job today and we just connected really well.”

In a surprising move, the starting roster against Nevada did not include setter-turned-libero this season Julia Handy. Freshman Sydney Gazzaniga got the start instead.

Head coach Johnathan Winder has said in the past that he will switch the lineup around to fit what is best for each specific opponent they are facing.

The Bulldogs jumped out to a quick 8-4 lead in the opening set on three kills by Smith and a kill each by Grace Doyle and Sukhov. Nevada then came back to tie it up at 10. Fresno State regained the lead 15-13 with Doyle leading the charge with three kills, and Ella Rud getting the ‘Dogs to 15 with a kill of her own.

The Wolfpack once again fought back to tie it up at 18. Sukhov got two kills and a huge service ace to grab the lead and push it out to 21-19.

After a Nevada timeout, she wasn’t done as she served two more aces making it 24-19 with Smith adding a kill as well. The Bulldogs capitalized off of two errors to make it 24-21 and were able to get a set-winning kill from Smith to claim the first set, 25-21.

Another back-and-forth second set, which saw five lead changes and eight ties, started with the ‘Dogs letting the Wolfpack jumped out to a 9-6 lead on multiple kills by Kyla Walters, Sydney Petersen and Sia Liilii. Sukhov then got three kills, and Doyle added one to tie the set at 11. Fresno State took the lead at 15-13 with two kills by Amaria Kelley and one by Smith.

The Wolfpack then came storming back and took a 19-16 advantage with two kills by Walters and a kill and ace by Petersen, forcing Fresno State to call a timeout.

Back-to-back kills by Sukhov and one by Doyle brought the ‘Dogs within a point at 19-18. The Wolfpack then pushed their lead out to 21-18. Smith in a critical spot scored two kills in a row to cut it down to a one-point lead for Nevada.

Fresno State’s Desiree Sukhov serves the ball against Nevada on Sunday, Oct. 17, at the Save Mart Center. (Wyatt Bible/The Collegian)

After a Nevada timeout, kills by Walters and Petersen gave them a two-point lead with the score at 23-21. The Bulldogs would not go away quietly as they tied it up at 24 with a kill by Smith.

Helped out by a controversial attack error by Nevada, Fresno State won the challenge on a crucial kill by Kelley. Fresno State went on to take the extremely close second set by a score of 26-24.

After two close sets, the Bulldogs dominated the third set, getting out to a 7-1 advantage on kills by Sukhov, Doyle, and Rud – forcing the Wolfpack to take an early timeout. Kelley with back-to-back kills pushed the lead to 16-5.

A service ace by Mikayla Weiss and a kill by Smith all but put Nevada’s chances of getting back into the match away, with the score now 19-6. The Wolfpack was able to get it to 20-12 with kills by Walters and Lillard. That would be all they could muster as Fresno State scored the next five points with Doyle leading the way with a kill and two aces to take the final set 25-12.

Sukhov did a great job serving on the day recording a team-high three aces.

“I always just go back to the service line and think aggressively and just try to hit my serve. You know there is a lot going on in the gym, and you’re kind of focused on who you want to serve,” Sukhov said. “It’s really important to calm down your thoughts and just take your time. Go through a routine and just hit your serve, and, yeah, just thinking aggressively.”

The leaders of the match were Sukhov with 13 kills and three SA’s, Weiss with 26 assists, Rud with 15 digs, and Kasey Purry with five blocks in the victory.

Winder was pleased with how his team performed Sunday.

“Today was way better. We passed better, and it allowed us to rest the offense and defense and everything just to kind of be a little bit more smooth,” Winder said.

He also didn’t know how his team would respond after its loss on Thursday to San Jose State.

“Yeah it was good. I think there’s always uncertainty of how the team is going to respond, especially because we played really bad in the last one,” Winder said. “So it was nice to go completely the opposite way and remind us of how good you can be and how good this group can be.”

The Bulldogs improved to 8-8 on the season and 4-4 in Mountain West Conference play with the win. They will be back out on the Save Mart Center court on Thursday to battle Boise State at 6 p.m.

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