Johnson comes back from injury to lead Pack volleyball

RENO - Welcome back Tristin Johnson.

Sidelined since Sept. 16 with a knee injury against California, Johnson shook off her rustiness Monday night by dishing out 53 assists in Nevada's five-game win over rival UNLV at the Virginia Street Gym.

Nevada (13-6, 7-1 WAC) increased its home winning streak to nine matches after beating the Rebels, 27-30, 30-22, 21-30, 30-25 and 15-8, before a paid attendance of 363.

Johnson, a 2003 Fallon grad, dressed out in the last two games, but didn't know until the pregame warm-ups that she might play.

With Nevada trailing 14-8 in the first game, coach Devin Scruggs substituted Johnson for Ashley Miller and Johnson immediately recorded her first assist since the injury.

"She (Scruggs) let me know that I might play," Johnson said. "The minute things started to look bad, I looked down the bench ready to go."

Scruggs said the main reason for putting Johnson in came down to experience of setting the middle hitters.

"I just wanted a little more experience in setting the middle," Scruggs said. "Having her back in there was a little more comfortable for some. I like having both setters. The depth at that position is critical."

Feeling rusty, Johnson said her coaches, especially associate head coach Oscar Crespo, and teammates helped ease her return to the starting lineup.

"It's been a while. I appreciate all the help from my teammates," said Johnson, who wore a black knee brace on her left leg. "I was a little nervous actually. Oscar's been working me out for the last couple of days."

Teammate Karly Sipherd said Johnson did well coming back from last month's injury.

"She did amazing. It's been a long time since she's been back," Sipherd said of Johnson. "She wanted to be in bad. Johnson definitely stepped it up."

Nevada, though, had to deal without star middle blocker Salaia Salave'a, who re-injured her ankle Saturday against Utah State.

"Salaia's a big factor in our team,"said Sipherd, a middle blocker from Auburn, Calif. "It was definitely a struggle in the beginning because we were trying to find a rhythm."

Johnson said Nevada had to focus on teamwork in order to come back against the Rebels.

"We knew what we had to do to play together," Johnson said. "(It was) a gut-check win. It makes everybody have to pick up their game."

Sipherd stepped up into the middle blocker role and led the Pack with 19 kills and an attack percentage of .405.

"It's my job to be the dominant player up there. I think that's given me more confidence," Sipherd said.

Five players recorded double figures in kills along with Sipherd.

"This is a pretty good balanced attack," Scruggs said.

The ninth-year coach said she would like to see multiple players score kills in double figures even with Salave'a playing.

"I like to see that with her," Scruggs said. "Things happen for a reason. We were able to get these two wins (Utah State and UNLV) without Salaia."

Teal Ericson added 17 kills, Carly Sorensen with 12 and Brianne Davis and Erika Ryan each had 11. Christine Harms led in digs with 23 and Sorensen completed a double-double with 13 digs.

Nevada travels to San Jose State on Thursday and Fresno State on Saturday before returning home next Thursday to face nationally ranked Hawaii.


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