Volleyball Season Wrap-Up
By Media Relations Intern Kara LaPoint
Despite a slow start, Nevada's women's volleyball team finished out its 2009 season with a strong finish, and numerous noteworthy individual accomplishments.
"The team really improved throughout the year," Coach Devin Scruggs said. "They struggled early on to win just one match of their first four. But as the season went on, they got more comfortable as a group and the freshmen really stepped it up."
The team started its season with a 5-9 record through September, but went on to earn six more wins to qualify for the Western Athletic Conference Championship in November. Scruggs said that she was proud of the way her team worked to improve over the season, especially since she had predicted a tough year coming in.
"I knew it would be a difficult season because we were counting on a lot of younger players," she said. "... But the group as a whole stepped up and finished fairly strong."
One of those younger players was freshman Elissa Ji, who stepped up to the challenge of coming through for her team so well that she was named to the WAC All-Freshman team in the post-season.
Scruggs was optimistic about Ji's future prospects.
"Elissa (winning the award) was a nice surprise this year, and she will only to continue to be better," Scruggs said.
Two other players, juniors Kylie Harrington and Lindsay Baldwin, also garnered post-season honors, being named to the First and Second All-Conference Teams, respectively. Both had been named to All-Conference teams in 2008 as well.
Harrington was also named the Verizon Wireless Western Athletic Conference Player of the Week for her first time for the week of Nov. 9-15.
This season, she earned 1,137 kills to lead the team and secure her place on Nevada's all-time single-season leaders board, with the sixth-most kills in a season at Nevada.
While Harrington was the team's biggest attack weapon, Baldwin was the uncontested leader in blocks and block assists.
Her season block assist total put her in a tie for ninth on the single-season all-time list, with 106. She also holds the fourth- and fifth-highest single-season totals from the 2007 and 2008 seasons, when she finished with 121 and 113 block assists, respectively.
While she led the team in total blocks this year with 119, she was just short of making the single-season leader board, though she already holds the fifth- and ninth-highest single-season block numbers of all time, with 135 in 2007 and 125 in 2008.
Meanwhile, junior Nicole Link showed her prowess as a defensive specialist, earning a team-high 430 digs, which put her second all-time on the single-season leader board. She also holds the seventh-place spot, with 393 digs from 2008.
Link also made it on the all-time leader board again this year for individual match digs, where she recorded the fourth-highest number of digs in a match, with 30 on Sept. 19 against Cal State Bakersfield. Link also holds a tie for the fifth spot on the list, with two 29-dig matches: one from Oct. 10 of this season against Utah State and one from Oct. 11 of last season against Fresno State.
Link, Baldwin, Harrington and seniors Jorgan Staker and Sonnie Sei also each secured a spot on Nevada's all-time career leaders board with their numbers this season.
Baldwin and Link move to sixth and seventh in total points for their three-year careers so far, with 1,038 and 947.5 points, respectively.
Baldwin is also fourth all-time in career blocks with 340, followed by Staker in seventh with 229. Baldwin again leads Staker in total career blocks on the leader board, with the fourth-highest all-time total of 379. Staker finished her career as eighth all-time, with 234.
Link sits as the ninth all-time leader in digs, with 1,014 three years into her Nevada career.
Sei finished off her career with the seventh-most assists of all time, with 1,842.
Staker, Sei and senior Lauren Kelly will be missed next year, Scruggs said, though they have left their mark on the program.
"Anytime you lose a starting setter that's an impact," Scruggs said of Sei. "But we have had one waiting in the wings. Tatiana (Santiago) has been playing extremely well."
Scruggs said the team's senior day, when the three were honored at their last home match, was by far her favorite day of the year. The team played Louisiana Tech in what Scruggs called their "best match of the year," and "just a really fun day."
But despite the loss of the senior class, Scruggs remains highly optimistic about the upcoming 2010 season, which she looks forward to as a new beginning.
"I expect us to move forward and get better next year," she said.
After having clearly made their mark on Nevada's record book, Scruggs said she will look to Baldwin, Harrington and Link to lead the team as seniors next year.
"With Kylie and Lindsay as strong seniors, plus the addition of the new freshmen, it could be a very different team in a positive way (next year)," Scruggs said.
Scruggs said she is really excited about her incoming freshmen class, which includes a local set of twins, Sofia and Grace Anxo, who played at Reno's Bishop Manogue High School.
"They have a high volleyball IQ and good control," Scruggs said.
For now, Scruggs said she is really looking forward to a tough spring of training to get the team ready for next year. She is also preparing to start a search for a new assistant coach to replace volunteer Mike Bettinghouse, who she said she would like to thank for coming out retirement to help the team this year.
Overall, this year's team finished out the season with an 11-20 record, playing to 7-8 at home and 5-3 in conference play at home.