Rebels beat BYU, reach MWC finals

UNLV’s volleyball team has waited awhile for its first chance to play in a conference championship match.

The Rebels scratched and clawed and fought Friday, but finally picked up the program’s biggest win and achieved their goal.

UNLV, the No. 2 seed in the Mountain West Conference tournament, outlasted third-seeded Brigham Young 33-35, 30-22, 29-31, 30-24, 16-14 in a tournament semifinal match at Cox Pavilion. The Rebels (23-5) will meet fifth-seeded Utah (15-14) in the title match tonight at 8 with a guaranteed NCAA Tournament bid on the line.

The match will be aired live on CSTV (Cox Digital 333).

“This is something we want, something we’ve really strived for,” said sophomore middle blocker Erin Greenwood, who had 22 kills. “We love being here and we want to win.”

Senior middle blocker Lauren Miramontes set a school record for kills in a match with 34 in 86 attempts, and the teams combined for 174 kills and 199 digs — yet the final point of the match came on a harmless blocking error.

After seeing leads of 13-9 and 14-11 slip away in the final game, the Rebels went ahead 15-14 on a solo block by Miramontes.

As the Rebels set up for the potential match-clinching kill, BYU’s Rachel Dyer touched the net on a block attempt, sending the Rebels to the championship match.

“It feels awesome. From here on out, it’s icing on the cake,” Miramontes said. “We came here to beat BYU and now we’re going to come back and try to take it all.”

Getting there, though, was a long road.

UNLV squandered a 29-27 lead in the first game and lost despite serving for the game three times.

A solid offensive effort in Game 2 allowed the Rebels to even the match. After spraying 12 attack errors in the first game, UNLV had only three in the second game.

“They didn’t believe in themselves and they let the (first) game slip away,” UNLV coach Allison Keeley said. “In the timeout between Games 2 and 3, they decided they really wanted to be here.”

The Rebels rallied from a 29-26 deficit in Game 3, but kills by Erica Lott and Bryn Porter gave the Cougars (21-7) the edge in games.

Miramontes and sophomore outside hitter Jessica Walters had two kills apiece in a 6-0 run that gave the Rebels a 25-20 lead in Game 4 and helped set up the decisive game.

Kills by Greenwood and seniors Maria Aladjova and Jada Walker and a solo block by Greenwood lifted UNLV to a 10-7 lead in the final game.

The Rebels upped the margin to 13-9 before two kills by Lott brought BYU within 13-11.

Walters’ fifth kill of the final game put UNLV a point from the victory, but consecutive blocks by the Cougars and a kill by Porter evened the match.

Miramontes broke the previous mark of 33 kills in a match, set in 1997 by Elizabeth Goyet.

“We were passing great, and when we are it leaves us open to do a lot of things offensively,” Miramontes said.

Greenwood had 22 kills. Melody Nua dished out 67 assists. Walker had 32 digs in a fine defensive effort.

BYU’s Amy Schlauder, a Durango High School graduate, had 69 assists.

The Rebels split with Utah during the regular season, winning at home Sept. 15 and losing at Utah on Nov. 16.

Utah 3, Colorado State 2 — The Utes rallied to upset the top-seeded and 20th-ranked Rams, 23-30, 30-16, 18-30, 30-22, 15-12.

Kathryn Haynie had 20 kills and 15 digs for Utah, which advanced to its third straight conference title match.

Jamie Strauss had 18 kills for Colorado State (22-7).

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