EUGENE, Ore. – After surrendering a pair of match points in the third set, and facing yet another huge road crowd of 4,668 at Matthew Knight Arena, the second-ranked Huskies regrouped and played a tremendous set that showed their mettle, racing away with a 25-8 fourth set win to close out 21st-ranked Oregon. Washington (10-0, 2-0 Pac-12) earned its first win at Oregon (8-4, 1-1 Pac-12) since 2009.
The Huskies used a balanced attack and tough serving to take the first two sets, 25-23, 25-19, but missed a pair of match points as they were trying to close out the sweep, with the Ducks pulling out the third set, 31-29. Rather than deflate or look towards a fifth set, the Dawgs turned a 7-6 fourth set lead into a 25-8 win, and 18-2 run to finish things, highlighted by a nine-point service run from sophomore Cassie Strickland that started at 12-7 and carried the Huskies to 20-7.
The Huskies did not look back, and final numbers were in UW’s favor, as they hit .262 to just .121 for Oregon, including a dominant .667 attack percentage in the fourth set. A season-high 21.5 blocks for UW helped, including a career-high 11 from sophomore Lianna Sybeldon. Senior Jenna Orlandini had a big season-best 27 digs.
Offensively, junior All-American Krista Vansant had another strong night with 17 kills on a .295 attack percentage. Sybeldon was also solid on offense, as she had seven kills and hit .400, with fellow middle Melanie Wade hitting .500 with five kills and matching her own career-high with nine blocks. Senior Kylin Muñoz put away eight kills and had seven block assists with junior Kaleigh Nelson adding six kills and five blocks.
The response in set four “says a lot about this group,” said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. “To go down in what was just a complete dog fight, shooting ourselves in the foot (in set three) at the end, but having the resolve to overcome that, to lock in and play UW volleyball, was the most important thing. Cassie was awesome, she was putting the ball in good spots and put them in trouble, and we capitalized on them playing off the net. We have people that can play, and consistency will be the deal, there are times where we just put it together and play, can we lengthen the consistency?”
The win capped a tough Pac-12 opening week for the Dawgs that took them to hostile environments in Pullman and Eugene, and the two road wins, coupled with an earlier win in a packed house at 14th-ranked Illinois, has UW wanting to keep its bags packed, which it will next week at Colorado and Utah. The win was also Washington’s first on the road against a ranked Pac-12 team since winning at No. 6 UCLA in 2009.
A rejection on the first rally from Muñoz and Sybeldon got the Huskies fired up from the get-go. An ace from Orlandini got the Huskies a 4-1 edge. Cassie Strickland went up the line for a kill and then put the next shot off the blockers hands and out for an 8-4 lead and Oregon called the early timeout. Out of the break, a third in a row from Strickland up the line extended the run. Nelson and Wade then roofed a Brenner swing and Oregon took its second timeout at 10-4. The Ducks sided out on the next rally to snap the five-point Husky run. Oregon took the next three as well as UW’s passing hit a lull and the Huskies needed their first timeout at 10-8. A couple more Husky errors and the lead disappeared at 10-all until the Ducks missed a serve. Washington put up two straight roofs on the Ducks to push back to a 13-11 lead, then an Oregon error and a roll shot kill from Parker added two more as Jenni Nogueras continued to serve tough. With UW up 17-12, the Ducks went on a 3-0 run and forced Washington’s last timeout. A Vansant kill in transition was followed by an Oregon error as momentum swung back UW’s way, 20-16. Again Oregon answered with three but Vansant finished to keep the lead at 21-19. A Nelson slam to the corner got the Huskies to set point at 24-22. Oregon sided out to save the first, but then served into the net on the next point to end the back-and-forth first set, 25-23 Dawgs. The Huskies won the set despite hitting a sloppy .111 compared to .159 for Oregon. UW had an ace and no service errors while the Ducks missed four serves, and UW had four blocks to one for Oregon.
Muñoz tipped one over the blockers and down on the first point of the second set. Vansant slammed one crosscourt and then tooled the block on the next point for a 4-1 lead and the Ducks took the quick timeout. Vansant then did some work on the blocking side of things, stuffing Martenne Bettendorf out of the break for 5-1 until Strickland missed a serve. An Oregon ace to the back corner cut the UW lead to 6-5, then Melanie Wade notched her first kill out of the middle. The teams traded sideouts, with Nelson getting a right side kill then teaming with Sybeldon for a rejection and a 10-7 lead. The Ducks came back with three in a row to tie it at 10-all. A triple block of Brenner regained the lead. Nogueras rotated to the service line, and her first tough serve led to an Oregon attack error, and her next one painted the line for an ace and Oregon took timeout with UW up 13-10. A 3-0 Oregon run made it 14-13 and the Huskies took their first timeout. After an Oregon service error, Strickland took some speed off and earned an ace for 16-13. Vansant followed with a transition kill, then met with Sybeldon to reject Finley in the middle. Another tough Strickland serve led to a Duck miss and a 19-13 lead before Strickland left one short. A heads-up play from Muñoz, tipping down a ball above the net was followed by another big Dawg block for 21-15. After Oregon took two off, Muñoz again had a clutch right side swing for 22-17. Vansant then flipped a loose ball to no-man’s land for 23-17, and UW reached set point with another resounding rejection of Brenner by Wade and Nelson. Oregon saved a couple before Beals found Vansant on the right side for her ninth kill of the evening, ending things 25-19. Washington upped its production to .344 in the second set, and held the Ducks to .125 thanks in large part to tough serving.
Sybeldon had the first two kills for the Huskies in the third set as the teams traded points. Wade picked up two big early block assists as the teams were tied through the first ten points. The Ducks served their way to a 7-5 lead and McLaughlin asked for timeout. Oregon added on three more out of the timeout as the Huskies struggled to finish. Sybeldon finally snapped the run on a quick set, then Parker converted a transition set for 10-7. A Wade kill and an Orlandini ace had the Huskies clawing back, and then a diving bump set from Strickland led to a Vansant finish and the Dawgs had gotten level at 12-all, forcing an Oregon timeout. The break snapped Orlandini’s run as she served long. The Ducks then reeled off three more points to rebuild a 16-12 lead and prompt the second Husky timeout. A Brenner miss snapped the run and sent Beals back to serve, and Vansant stuffed Oregon’s Warner on the next rally. Wade then pounced on an overpass to cut the UO lead to one at 15-16, and Nelson and Wade then tied it back up, roofing Brenner after one of the longest rallies of the night. That brought the last of the timeouts from Oregon’s side. Oregon missed long as UW went ahead by one. Brenner sided out for Oregon to tie it again and snap the 5-0 Husky run. Vansant tipped for a kill and an Oregon passing error tied things at 19-all. Vansant then dialed up an ace for 20-19. Nelson tipped one to open space for 21-19, but the Ducks got the sideout and then UW shanked a pass to tie it again. Oregon moved up by one but Sybeldon finished an overpass to tie it at 23-all. Nogueras served long for set point Oregon, but UO gave it back, serving wide. Muñoz and Sybeldon rejected a great Bettendorf look straight down for 25-up. Oregon got another chance, but Vansant answered for 26-all. On set point number four, Vansant tipped for a kill and then the Dawgs got match point with Nogueras, up in the front row, and Wade stuffing Brenner, but a slide to Williams saved it at 28-28. Wade answered with a slide kill of her own for match point number two but then served long. Vansant then tipped short out of system and it was back to Oregon’s edge. They finally ended it with a kill off the block on their fifth set point, 31-29.
Looking to shake off the disappointment of the third set, Muñoz had a big right side finish and Nelson tipped on the right side for a kill and an early 5-3 lead. A quick connection from Beals to Sybeldon made it 8-6. Muñoz then put one off the back row and out on the right side, and the Ducks missed a slide attempt for a 10-6 Husky lead and an Oregon timeout. Out of the break, Nogueras put it right between two Duck receivers for an ace before Oregon snapped the 4-0 run with a questionable touch call. But UW answered right back stuff from Sybeldon and Strickland, and then Oregon swung long for 13-7 and used its last timeout. Muñoz and Sybeldon crunched down another swing out of the break, and then the Oregon libero ducked under a Strickland jump serve that flew for an ace and a 15-7 lead. The run continued with a Ducks error and a Muñoz blast off the block. Vansant then had a solo rejection in the middle against Kacey Nady. Muñoz and Sybeldon continued the block party with another serve-receive stuff. Oregon overpassed the next ball and Sybeldon slammed the Nogueras set for 20-7. Strickland finally missed a service to cap the nine-point binge, but Vansant came right back with a sideout in serve-receive. Then it was Orlandini’s turn to go on a run. Vansant hammered down an overdig two points later for a 23-8 edge, and a transition swing from Vansant brought up match point, technically the third of the night. It only took one, as Muñoz and Wade snuffed out the Duck swing for the fifth block of the set, ending it 25-8.
The fourth set stats were obviously rosy from a Husky perspective, as they hit .667 with 10 kills on 15 swings without an error, while Oregon made 10 errors and had just seven kills to hit -.115. Muñoz and Sybeldon each had three block assists. Strickland’s line just had one ace, one service error, and one block assist, but her serving run made all the difference.
The Huskies remain on the road for another week, traveling to Colorado and Utah next Friday and Saturday, Oct. 4-5.