CHICAGO, Ill. – An efficient effort to cap off a successful road trip was a perfect way for the Husky volleyball team to notch the 300th victory in Head Coach Jim McLaughlin’s Washington career. The sixth-ranked Huskies improved to 6-0 with a 25-15, 25-16, 25-14 win at Loyola Chicago, hitting a season-best .408 and having six different players earn five or more kills.
After posting a big win at No. 14 Illinois on Friday, and watching the Husky football team also top the Fighting Illini on Saturday, the Huskies avoided any sort of letdown, taking care of business today against the Ramblers at Gentile Arena. That pushed McLaughlin’s record in his 13th year at UW to 300-84, a winning percentage of .781.
“We played well. I thought we hit the ball, passed and served the ball well,” said McLaughlin. “But we had some opportunities to block more balls. The defensive package will be a lot more powerful when we start getting our hands in the right area over the net. That will be a point of emphasis the next week and half.”
As for the milestone, McLaughlin said the special thing is just being at the University of Washington. “I love it here. If you’re at a place long enough things accumulate. It’s not about me, it’s about these kids that put on the uniform and commit to everything we ask of them. I don’t think it means much other than I’m getting older.”
Junior All-American Krista Vansant followed up a great performance on Friday at Illinois (19 kills, 1 error, 39 attempts) with another stellar outing today, as she led the team with seven kills, making no errors on 13 swings for a .538 attack percentage. She also set a big career-high with six service aces, the most for a UW player since Gabbi Parker had six last Nov. 17 against Oregon State. She also had nine digs, tied for the team lead with Jenna Orlandini.
Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals distributed the ball all around the court. Nogueras finished with 17 assists and Beals had 13, and all the hitters got in on the action. Kaleigh Nelson and Gabbi Parker each had six kills, with Parker hitting .600. Kylin Muñoz and Melanie Wade had five kills apiece, Lianna Sybeldon had four on four attempts, and Cassie Strickland had three kills.
Muñoz had the first kill of the night, and a couple kills from Vansant and one from Wade put the Huskies up 7-3 early and forced an early Ramblers timeout. Sybeldon had a pair of kills, one from Beals and one from Nogueras to make it 10-7. Loyola cut the lead to one point at 13-12, but Vansant then went on a huge serving run, notching four aces in a row at one point as part of a 6-0 run that put the Huskies up 19-12. A Parker kill and a block from Sybeldon and Vansant got the Huskies to set point at 24-15, and Loyola misfired on the next point for the 25-15 finish. Washington rolled to a .556 hitting percentage in the first set compared to .273 for the Ramblers.
Nogueras had an early ace and consecutive kills from Parker and Vansant got the Huskies a 5-2 lead in the second set. Loyola took a timeout at 7-3 after a Vansant kill, and another one two points later after Nelson found the floor for 9-3. But Loyola then got on its best run, winning five of six points to cut it to 10-8 Huskies, and then another 3-0 rally tied things up at 11-all. Strickland broke a tie with a kill, and then it was her turn for a long service run. Muñoz and Vansant earned kills, then Muñoz and Parker teamed for a block for 17-12. Strickland fired an ace, and then Parker had another finish for 19-12 until Strickland finally missed serve to snap the 7-0 run. Vansant had a kill and her fifth ace to make it 23-15, and then Strickland closed the second set with two more kills assisted by Beals. Vansant had four kills on four swings as UW hit .400 in the set and Loyola hit .219.
Three straight kills early in the third set from Sybeldon, Vansant, and Muñoz made it 6-2 and forced a Loyola timeout. Vansant’s sixth ace had the Huskies up 9-5, and then Wade and Parker teamed for a rejection for a 10-5 lead. Parker finished one and then Nelson and Sybeldon sent back the Loyola swing for a 12-6 edge and the second Loyola timeout. The Ramblers would not get closer than five points the rest of the way. Sophomore Kim Condie served a nice run to help UW open up the lead to 14-7. Leading 23-14, the Huskies finished the match off with two straight stuffs from the duo of Sybeldon and Parker, ending things at 25-14. Again the Huskies outhit Loyola Chicago, .321 to .062 in the set with four blocks for UW.
Washington will be back home to close out the nonconference schedule with games against CoppinState and Cal State Northridge next week on Sept. 19 and 20.