Defending regular season champions remind the Mountain West its greatness

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UNLV No. 2 Dakota Quinlan hits the ball against San Jose State University. Photo by DJ Cabanlong.

UNLV Volleyball (10-4, 2-0) continued its home stretch and remained undefeated at home against San Diego State (5-7, 0-1) and San Jose State (9-5, 0-1).

Tuesday vs San Diego State

UNLV displayed its greatness as the team stamped the triumphant comeback victory at home in a thriller that went the distance in five (21-25, 16-25, 25-20, 25-20, 25-23).

The Rebels opened the first with great energy to take the first two points. However, the Aztecs had other plans as San Diego St. sophomore outside hitter Madison Corf recorded five of her 17 kills to fuel the Aztecs’ early 8-0 run. San Diego St. did not look back after an early lead to win the first 25-21.

Continuing the success of the first, the Aztecs maintained a strong performance while limiting errors in the second. UNLV struggled as the squad doubled the Aztecs in errors with a total of six in the second to lose, 25-16.

“It’s not always going to be pretty,” head coach Malia Shoji said. “I told them ‘we have got to fight. It is time!’ They did exactly that.”

Down 2-0, UNLV was on the brink of being swept on its home court. The Rebels showcased their resiliency with an incredibly gritty response. The Rebels mustered up a late 7-0 run to regain the lead in a tightly contested set. UNLV prevented the sweep to claim the third 25-20.

The Aztecs expressed poor body language from the heartbreaking end in the third, which translated into its play on the court. San Diego St. recorded a match-high of 11 total team errors in the fourth, ultimately placing the squad in the negative for hitting percentage of -0.172. The Rebels capitalized in the fourth, 25-20.

The first match this season at home went to the fifth, and UNLV did not take the moment for granted. A demoralized Aztec squad could not overcome the great energy sparked by fans cheering for the Rebels. UNLV finished the final set on top, 15-13.

The great team effort was led by senior cornerstones Isabel Martin and Arien Fafard. Martin recorded a match-high 21 kills, and Fafard complimented the performance with her own 30-piece in assists.

“That’s not how you want to start a game,” said senior right-side hitter Gabrielle Arretche-Ramos. “Always want to prove something … nothing left on the table.”

Thursday vs San Jose State

One day fresh off a rollercoaster victory, UNLV welcomed a well-rested San Jose St. squad looking to find revenge for last season’s laurels (27-25, 25-23, 27-25).

The opening set went as expected from both sides. The Rebels and Spartans provided great volume and energy in the first as the beginning set was decided beyond 25 points. The tightly contested first set favored UNLV as the Rebels took the set 27-25.

Doubling down, UNLV maintained the offensive firepower from the first as both set the team recorded 18 total team kills. The Rebels wasted no time to put away the Spartans in the second. UNLV won the second 25-23.

Looking to complete the sweep, the Rebels were matched with great resistance by a relentless Spartans team. San Jose St. managed to limit their errors only by one less than UNLV.. However, that was not enough for the Spartans to stop a potential sweep as the Rebels brought out the brooms to win the set, 27-25, and the match (3-0).

“I have been told we have a home court, and I absolutely felt that tonight,” Shoji said.

Up Next

The Rebels pack up and leave the Silver State for another road trip. UNLV will face Wyoming on Sept. 28 at 5:30 p.m. and Colorado State on Sept. 30 at 11 a.m. The Rebels look to remain undefeated in conference play on the road.

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