Volleyball Falls to UNLV; Blinn and Edinger Named All-Tournament
Las Vegas, Nev. - In a winner-take-all match of the UNLV Classic for the tournament championship, the Gonzaga University volleyball team lost to UNLV 3-1 (25-23, 17-25, 23-25, 19-25) and took second place overall.
"We had an opportunity to play three matches against three teams that we had a chance to be successful against," fourth-year head coach Dave Gantt said. "It is always different playing the home team at the end of the tournament because all of the sudden the neutral court becomes one that has different energy and excitement level, but it is something we have to be able to deal with."
The Bulldogs fell to 5-4 while the Rebels went 3-0 in winning the tourney and improved to 6-3. Gonzaga finished the weekend 2-1 with sweeps over Texas Southern University and Prairie View A&M University. Gonzaga had its streak of three straight sweeps snapped with the loss to UNLV.
"I am pleased we competed well in the first two matches," Gantt said. "However, I am disappointed we didn't make the adjustments we needed to win tonight's UNLV match."
After splitting the first 10 points in the opening set, Gonzaga took advantage of some free-ball opportunities and with a 6-1 run, UNLV head coach Cindy Fredrick called a timeout.
Out of the timeout the Bulldogs built a 16-8 lead until the Rebels responded with a 7-1 run, prompting Gantt to take a timeout.
"If we call timeout, it means something is not going well with our serve and receive," Gantt said. "We regroup, and tell the players something they probably already recognize on the court. When situations aren't going well, things tend to speed up in the match. We use timeouts to slow things down so we can reset."
After the Gonzaga reset, UNLV tied the set at 18-18. Both teams battled during long points, but GU pulled away and closed the set with a kill down the line from redshirt freshman Savannah Blinn.
Blinn was named to the all-tournament team along with senior Kylie Edinger. Blinn finished the tournament with 31 kills, 10 aces and 16 digs while Edinger finished with 30 kills, two aces and nine digs. Blinn has been named to the all-tournament team three consecutive weekends.
"Kudos again to Savannah," Gantt said. "She is really playing at a level that makes other teams have to focus on her, but we have to be careful. For her experience level, she is doing a very nice job. We cannot rely on Savannah to be the only one. We want multiple options to attack, and if she is the only weapon right now, we will be in tough situations. Everyone will game plan to stop Savannah."
The Rebels got the best of the Bulldogs early in the second set. UNLV doubled the Gonzaga score and down 10-5, Gantt used another timeout to regroup his squad.
"We want to establish our middles right away in the first set," Gantt said. "We did that but they adjusted by moving their block to the middle. We did not respond quickly enough to that in the second."
Fresh out of the timeout, Blinn killed three of the Bulldogs next four points. However, the Rebels defense blocked three of the Gonzaga attacks and took a 21-14 advantage. From there it was the UNLV attack finishing the set. UNLV had a kill percentage of .483 to Gonzaga's .152 in the set.
Things picked up in the third with the score 18-14 in favor of UNLV. Gonzaga closed the gap with a kill from freshman Jordan Gasser and then a kill from Edinger. Two consecutive aces by Blinn tied the match at 18-18 before UNLV ran off two points.
"It's really a cat and mouse game, a game in a game," Gantt said. "We need to understand what is going on during the match and more experience is going to help our players figure it out."
GU would have back-to-back blocks by Gasser and then by junior Meredith Crenshaw and redshirt freshman Kalistina Takau. Despite the Zags efforts, UNLV won five of the last eight points and took a 2-1 set lead.
"It is a situation where we did not make adjustments soon enough after the first set," Gantt said. "That is what this match against UNLV boils down to. We run our system, they make an adjustment and we did not make an adjustment quickly enough after that."
During the fourth, Gonzaga saw six more shots blocked and the UNLV advantage was at 16-12. The Bulldogs tried to make one more run, but was only able to match points with the Rebels in a 25-19 UNLV victory.
"Tonight we will take away that we need to be quicker about making our adjustments as we gear up for conference play," Gantt said. "We are not discouraged; in fact, we are encouraged that we forced UNLV into making an adjustment to stop us. Now we can design lessons in practice to help us adjust faster in game-time scenarios."
The Bulldogs return to action next Friday at 8:30 a.m. and 4:00 p.m. when they play Florida Atlantic University and Villanova University, respectively, in the ASU Sheraton Invitational in Tempe, Ariz.