NCAA roundup: UNLV now 14-1, Washington bounces back

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Addy Lofstedt of Northern Arizona swings against Chloe Hirst Idaho State/NAU photo

Not only did UNLV rally from an 0-2 deficit Thursday night at Fresno State, and not only did the Rebels win in five, but now the team is 14-1 overall and 3-0 in the Mountain West for only the third time ever.

UNLV, the No. 21 team in the VolleyballMag.com Mid-Major Poll, won 22-25, 20-25, 25-17, 25-19, 15-13 and has put the 2015 season (16-14, 9-9) in the rear-view mirror.

There was only one power-five conference match on Thursday as Washington beat visiting Cal in four. And in the Big Sky, Northern Arizona stayed on top with a four-set victory over visiting Idaho State.

Friday’s slate is a big one around the country. There are quite a few matches involving the power-five conference teams, but the highlight of the night could be in the West Coast Conference when No. 11 BYU goes to No. 6 San Diego.

— In the Big Ten, No. 2 Minnesota goes to Indiana, No. 18 Michigan State is at No. 16 Penn State, No. 22 Michigan is at Rutgers and No. 3 Wisconsin goes to No. 14 Purdue.

— In the Big 12, the only match is Iowa State at West Virginia.

— There are seven matches in the ACC, including No. 10 North Carolina at Georgia Tech , No. 15 Florida State playing host to Syracuse, Virginia at Virginia Tech, Duke at Notre Dame, NC State at Clemson, Wake Forest at Louisville and Boston College at Miami.

— The Pac-12 has No. 12 UCLA at No. 25 Utah, No. 21 Oregon at Arizona State, USC at No. 20 Colorado, No. 9 Stanford at No. 17 Washington State and Oregon State at Arizona.

— And in the SEC, the only ranked team, No. 5, Florida, is off to heal its wounds from getting swept on Wednesday by Kentucky. But Alabama is at Georgia, Missouri goes to Arkansas, Auburn is at Mississippi State and once-ranked Texas A&M goes to LSU.

UNLV, which has lost only to BYU, was led by Bree Hammel, who had 18 kills and 16 digs, and Sadie Stutzman, who had 17 kills, hit .400 and had two blocks. And Alexis Patterson hit .625 with six kills in eight swings to go with 15 digs. Ashley Owens added nine kills and five blocks.

“What a great comeback tonight,” UNLV coach Cindy Fredrick said. “Our passing was really tough, but our hitters stepped up. Alyssa (Wing), Elsa (Descamps) and Sadie were very offensive tonight, and I thought Alexis did a great job setting and hitting.

“Our defense picked up with Bree), Elisa (Woinowsky) and Alexis stepping up on the end. It was a terrific team effort to come back and win tonight.”

Fresno (9-5, 0-3) got 19 kills from Aleisha Coates, who also had eight digs and two blocks. Brielle Hefner added 10 kills.

One should assume the Huskies are tired, because a night after losing Stanford in five,  Washington beat Cal 25-23, 25-27, 25-12, 25-19.

Junior Crissy Jones had 11 of her 14 kills in the final two sets. Junior Courtney Schwan, who hit .421, had seven of her match-high 18 kills in the final set. Freshman Kara Bajema had nine kills and hit .400, and Avie Niece added six kills and three blocks.

“Cal played well, they ran a new lineup and did a nice job playing fearless and taking good swings against us. But a lot of credit goes to our players for their response after the break,” said Washington coach Keegan Cook, whose team is 12-2, 2-2 in the Pac-12.

“Crissy took a hundred swings in two nights, she put in a lot of work, but she understood that we needed to respond and she made sure she gave her best effort and when she does she can make good things happen, so that was a little bit of leadership in action there.”

Cal (6-7, 0-3) was led by sophomore Ashten Smith-Gooden, who had 14 kills and hit .481 in her first action as an opposite hitter. Fellow opposite Bailee Huizenga recorded 12 kills and three blocks and junior Christine Alftin had 10 kills, nine digs and two blocks.

In the Big Sky, Northern Arizona improved to 13-3, 3-0 by beating visiting Idaho State 22, 22-25, 25-22, 25-17 in a rematch of the 2015 Big Sky tournament title match.

Lauren Jacobsen led with 20 kills and hit .264. She also had 10 digs and a couple of blocks. Sydney Lema had 10 kills and 16 digs to go with four blocks, one solo.

“We were never completely together in all the things we were doing tonight,” said NAU coach Ken Murphy, whose team won for the 20th time in a row at home. “We had to fight for everything and Idaho State did a great job putting pressure on us and making us uncomfortable.

“I was so happy with the way we were able to respond on a night like this and I’m proud of them for not trying to do more, but just doing what we do and settle in.”

NAU plays host to Weber State on Saturday in what becomes an important Big Sky battle. Weber State (11-1, 2-1) is coming off a hard-fought victory at Southern Utah 28-26, 25-13, 26-24, 25-21, 15-10.

In the Western Athletic Conference, New Mexico State (12-4, 3-0) won at CSU Bakersfield 26-24, 25-20, 25-19 and UT Rio Grande Valley (12-5, 3-0) won at Grand Canyon 25-19, 25-17, 24-26, 25-12. And it’s worth noting that UTRGV is 3-0 in conference play for the first time in program history and on a three-match conference winning streak for the first time since Oct. 13-20, 1995, as members of the Sun Belt Conference.

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