LOS ANGELES – Washington headed into the Galen Center to take on the fourth-ranked USC Trojans this evening, and walked back out with one of its best victories in years, stopping USC in four sets to finish the first half of the Pac-12 season in first place. The Huskies got their first win at USC since 2008, two nights after their first win at UCLA since 2009, to improve to 17-1 on the year and 9-1 in Pac-12 play, and dropping the Trojans into second with an 8-2 conference mark.
It’s the first road win over a top-10 team for the Dawgs since beating then-No. 6 UCLA in 2009. Washington also completed its first weekend road sweep over the L.A. schools since 2008. The victory, by a count of 25-23, 23-25, 25-19, 25-22, also snapped a 16-match home win streak for the Trojans.
“It was a big time win,” said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. “We overcame a couple rough spots and got back in a rhythm, which you’ve got to be able to do. We had good composure, the girls were mature and made some good adjustments in our blocking, and put some pressure on a really good team. It’s been a while since we’ve done that, so it was a good feeling.”
Washington captured two sets tonight in which it trailed by six point margins. In set one, the Huskies trailed 12-18, but ran off 13 of the final 18 points to grab it, 25-23. In the fourth set, UW was down 4-10 early, but then sophomore Melanie Wade served UW on a 10-point run to take the lead. The box score didn’t show Wade’s effect, as she had just two kills, three digs, and three blocks, but McLaughlin credited the 6-foot-5 sophomore’s all-around play.
“She’s a complete player, and the kid works as hard as anyone I’ve coached,” he said. “(Assistant Coach) Keegan has done an unbelievable job with the serving, and he wanted Mel to serve, so I deferred to him, and he made a good choice because she got us on a nice run, and she can also play defense and that goes unnoticed sometimes.”
One player that did not go unnoticed in the box score was Wade’s middle blocker counterpart, Lianna Sybeldon, as the Folsom, Calif. native set a career-high with 15 kills, hitting .462, and leading with five blocks. Krista Vansant led all players with 22 kills, and Kaleigh Nelson added 13 more. Katy Beals and Jenni Nogueras even shared assists with 26 each, as the Huskies outhit the Trojans, .291 to .276 for the match.
Also hitting smart was senior Kylin Muñoz with nine kills and no errors for a .429 percentage. Cassie Strickland had a team-high 16 digs and senior Jenna Orlandini added 15. Beals also had 13 digs for her first double-double of the season, and added two aces, as UW won the battle of the top-two serving teams in conference with four aces to just two for USC.
Orlandini passed up to Beals who set Sybeldon for a spike on the first point of the match. The Trojans took the next three points until Muñoz put away her first kill for 2-3. The Huskies tied it up at 5-5 as Strickland hit down an overpass. But USC then strung together a 3-0 run to retake the lead until Sybeldon connected. Beals tossed in the first ace of the night for the Huskies to make it 7-8, then Strickland got the lion’s share of a stuff for 8-8. But another 3-0 run went right back USC’s way as Hagglund dug Sybeldon on a couple big swings, and this time UW took timeout down 8-11. Muñoz had a couple more right side finishes and then Wade capped the longest rally early with a kill to make it 11-13. Washington could not sustain the momentum, however, and dropped three more points before taking its second timeout down 11-16. Vansant broke out of a slow start with a kill out of the timeout. Another Vansant right side finish and a couple USC mistakes got the Huskies within three at 16-19. Beals fired another ace off the defense for 18-20 but Bricio got a key kill in serve-receive to get the side out. Strickland tipped for a point for 19-21, then the Dawgs put up a wall to stuff Bricio and cut it to one, forcing a USC timeout. The Trojans scored out of the break but Muñoz answered to draw UW within one again at 21-22. The Dawgs then got even as USC went into the net. Vansant then had a transition swing for the lead but was blocked for 22-23, but she came right back and evened it with a tough swing on the next point. Strickland then swooped in out of the back row to crush a Nogueras bump set down for the kill and set point for the Dawgs, 24-23, UW’s first lead since 1-0. USC took its last timeout, but a tough Nogueras serve made it tough on Nwanebu, and she hit long and the Huskies had stolen the first set, 25-23. The teams hit identical .244 marks in the first set, with Vansant and Muñoz each posting four kills, Muñoz hitting .500.
Muñoz tipped for a kill to start set two, then Strickland boomed an ace off the defense into the seats. Sybeldon put one away and USC missed long for an early 4-1 advantage. Vansant smartly wiped a tight set off the block and into the antenna for a kill and then Orlandini dove for a pancake and Wade set Vansant for a slam and a 6-2 lead. The teams traded points, with Vansant and Nelson adding kills from the right. Sybeldon beat the block for her fifth kill and a 10-7 lead. USC then got some big serves from Bricio and tied it up with three straight and UW called timeout at 10-10. Muñoz put down the Beals set out of the break to regain the lead, 11-10. Vansant crushed a combo set and then finished a long rally with a roll shot over and down for 13-11. Nelson then slammed one from the right for 14-11 and USC took timeout. Nogueras missed serve out of the break to snap the 3-0 run, but Wade and Nelson had a key block of a Bricio tip attempt, and then Sybeldon put away an overpass to rebuild the lead to 17-14, and USC took its last timeout. The Huskies had a service error and attack error out of the break but USC then made its first service error for 18-16. The Trojans climbed back to tie it at 19 and then Bricio ripped a serve that UW couldn’t handle, and the Huskies needed timeout trailing for the first time at 19-20. This time the post-timeout service error bit USC, to tie it at 20.
The teams traded points but then Hagglund made two huge digs as Shaw killed it in transition for 23-21 Trojans. Vansant got one back tapping down an overdig, but Shaw answered again for set point at 22-24. The Huskies saved the first on a net violation, but Olgard rolled a point down for a kill in serve-receive to end it, 25-23, Trojans.
Nelson finished a tough early rally and a couple USC misses helped the Huskies establish a 4-1 lead in set three. Strickland and Wade roofed Young of USC for a 6-4 edge. Sybeldon put away two more quick sets to keep the Huskies moving along up 9-6. Strickland had her second back row blast of the night for 10-6 and USC called timeout as the large purple fan section started a Go Huskies chant in the Galen Center. Out of the break, Orlandini had a nice dig to set up Vansant for the transition finish. The Trojans snapped the run by the smallest of margins, as Vansant nearly had a block but it was called just wide. A Sybeldon tip was knocked back out of bounds for a kill and a 12-8 lead. A float from Nogueras was shanked for a Husky ace and USC used its last timeout at 14-9 Dawgs. Nogueras’ serve was overpassed and Vansant killed it for 15-9 out of the break. Nelson then connected in transition from the right to extend the run. It was 16-9 before Nelson missed a transition chance wide, and then Vansant had an error and UW took time up 16-11, not wanting to let USC rally. The Trojans missed serve out of the break. Nogueras went to Nelson on two in a row and the junior pounded one straight down and one off the block for a 19-12 lead. Nelson had another key tip for a kill to make it 20-14. Vansant had a huge finish from the left corner of the 10-foot line to push the lead to 22-15. Orlandini handled the big Bricio serve and Vansant snapped down the Beals set for 23-16. The Huskies reached set point at 24-18 after Vansant tipped a combo set to open space. The Trojans saved one set point but Nogueras found Vansant on the right side and she lasered it up the line for a kill, her seventh of the set, to end it, 25-19. The Huskies outhit the Trojans, .279 to .235 in the third set, led by seven kills from Vansant and four on five swings from Sybeldon.
The Huskies struggled at the start of the fourth set, making two unforced errors and then overpassing for a USC kill and UW took timeout down 1-4. It was 1-6 before Muñoz got the first kill of the set for the Huskies. Wade hammered an overpass down to cut it to 3-6 until Olgard put one through the block. Down 4-10, Nelson got one back and Wade had a couple digs on a long point that Sybeldon won above the net. USC then got caught in the net, and Sybeldon stuffed down a Trojan tip attempt to extend the Wade serving run to four points and prompt a USC timeout at 8-10. Nelson and Sybeldon had one of the most booming blocks of the year on Bricio out of the break to cut it to one, then the Dawgs evened it as USC swung wide. Nogueras had a great dig and Vansant set recent sub Gabbi Parker for a kill on her first swing as UW moved up 11-10, then Bricio missed wide trying to avoid the Husky block and USC went in the net on the next rally and needed another timeout as the Huskies continued rolling up 13-10. Again the Huskies converted in transition out of the break, Nelson finishing a Vansant set for UW’s 10th-straight point. Finally the Trojans snapped it, Bricio getting a lucky bounce off the net and down for 14-11 Huskies. Sybeldon got the sideout right back with her career-best 14th kill. The Trojans regained some momentum with a 3-0 run as Sybeldon was slowed down momentarily on a block and a Hagglund dig, and the Huskies called timeout with a 16-14 lead. Beals went back to Sybeldon again out of the break and this time she tipped and it fell for the kill. Vansant went sharply crosscourt for 18-15 Dawgs, but USC answered right back. Muñoz got the back line on the next serve-receive. USC closed within one as Vansant missed a pair, but Strickland rolled one over and down for a key point at 21-19. Nelson delivered a big swing from the right side to make it 22-20. Sybeldon and Muñoz then rejected the Bricio tip attempt to make it 23-20 before Bricio came back with a kill. Orlandini bump set back to Muñoz who put it off the block and down to get to match point at 24-21. USC put down a free ball from UW’s end to save the first. Beals then got a big dig on the next point and Orlandini bump set Vansant on the left, and she ripped it up the line for the final kill to cap it 25-22. The Dawgs hit .361 for the last frame while USC hit .263. Vansant and Sybeldon had four kills and Nelson and Muñoz added three, while Sybledon had three blocks.
The Huskies now head home to start the second half of conference play against Utah on Friday, Nov. 1, and Colorado, the only team to beat the Huskies, on Sunday, Nov. 3