SEATTLE – An efficient Husky attack rolled past Colorado this afternoon in Alaska Airlines Arena, as the Dawgs unfurled the newly retired jersey of former All-American Courtney Thompson during a match that certainly made the U.S. Olympian proud. Third-ranked Washington (19-1, 11-1 Pac-12) avenged their only loss of the season with a 25-18, 25-15, 25-19 victory in front of 2,880 fans.
During the intermission, fans paid tribute to Thompson, the Kent, Wash. native and 2005 Honda Award winner, as she became the first Husky woman to have her jersey hang in Hec Ed Pavilion, alongside former basketball greats Brandon Roy and Bob Houbregs. Later this year, the Huskies will also retire the jerseys of Tim Lincecum (baseball), Danielle Lawrie (softball), and Nick Taylor (men’s golf) in their respective venues.
In the previous meeting in Boulder, the Huskies looked nothing like themselves in a 3-1 loss. Colorado (15-7, 7-5 Pac-12) has proven tough to beat at home, going 5-0 at home in conference play, and came into today’s match in sole possession of fourth in the Pac-12. But Washington was on point, especially in the first two sets when the Huskies hit .412 and then .478. Despite cooling off in the third set, UW still hit .299 for the match, and held Colorado to just .118.
Washington had a big edge in kills, 41-32, and racked up eight service aces to just three for Colorado. UW also won the blocking battle, 9.0-4.0 while Colorado had one more dig, 45-44. Junior Kaleigh Nelson followed her career-high 20 kill effort from Friday’s win over Utah with a team-leading 13 kills today, and junior Krista Vansant had a double-double with 10 kills and a team-best 12 digs, while also serving up three aces. The Husky middles, Lianna Sybeldon and Melanie Wade, each had six kills without an error to combine for a combined .545 attack percentage, and Sybeldon had a big seven blocks. Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals paced the offense with 21 and 13 assists, respectively.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin said the Huskies played a good match from start to finish. “We were up in game three big and we got a little complacent, a little human nature stuff set in, and I was all over them,” he said of one late lapse. “They know human nature doesn’t win a championship, so we’ve got to keep that edge. I think one thing that stood out is we met all our standards, but we made a lot of good little plays. We bettered the ball, and just made a lot of good ‘off’ plays, then our outside blockers did a nice job getting in some good spots and stuffing balls.”
Vansant’s serving had the Huskies on fire out of the gate, as she had two aces and Wade had two early kills for a 5-0 lead. But Colorado gradually got its footing and started to chip away, eventually closing to a 9-8 Husky lead. Two Vansant finishes and a Nelson transition spike from Nogueras built the lead back to 13-9. Out of the media timeout, a long rally ended in a Colorado error for 16-11 Huskies. Strickland slammed a kill up the left sideline past the block for 17-12 and a Buffs timeout. Colorado won five of the next seven points to threaten at 19-17, but Nelson put one away and Taylor Simpson misfired on the next point for CU and they needed timeout again. Washington would reach set point after back-to-back Nelson slams, and then Colorado left a back row attack in the net to end it, 25-18. The Huskies were very hot in the frame, hitting .412 with 15 kills and just one error, while holding Colorado to .179. Nelson had six kills on a .455 mark.
Two big stuff blocks from Nelson and Sybeldon sparked an early 4-0 run that put UW up 6-3 in the second set. Vansant delivered another kill and then a Beals float serve was fumbled for an ace and Colorado took the early timeout at 8-4 Huskies. But Beals served another ace right out of the break, then she set Sybeldon for a quick kill and 10-4. Colorado came back with an ace for 10-6, but Sybeldon had a kill and then shoved down an overpass off a tough Strickland serve for 12-6. Nogueras set Nelson who found the floor at 15-8, then the Huskies broke the set open with a four-point run to make it 19-10, with tough Vansant serving leading to Colorado miscues. Strickland connected on the right from Beals, and on set point, Vansant put away one more to cinch the set, 25-15. Washington rolled up another great percentage in the frame, hitting .478 while Colorado was at just .080. Sybeldon killed all three of her swings and had three block assists.
The third set started much like the first, as Vansant had her third ace for a 2-0 lead. Kylin Muñoz had an early kill and a block with Wade for 7-4, then Orlandini tossed in an ace. The defenses began to take over, making for long rallies and a lot of digs and soft blocks, but UW kept siding out, and a Wade service ace extended the lead to 12-7. A slam from Sybeldon brought up the media timeout with the Huskies up 15-11. She then teamed with Muñoz for a stuff of Alexis Austin, and then Vansant had an unassisted kill and Strickland boomed an ace for 18-11 and Colorado took time. The Buffs burned their last timeout at 21-13 after Vansant finished an Orlandini set. Colorado made a last ditch run with three straight to make it 22-17 and the Huskies called time to gather themselves. Wade got one to rattle and fall in the middle out of the break. Nelson got UW to match point at 24-19, and then Taylor Simpson was roofed by the combo of Sybeldon and Muñoz to finish the match, 25-19. Washington hit just .140 in the third set but held Colorado to .079, as CU had 21 digs and UW had 20, six from Vansant and five from Orlandini.
Washington finishes the weekend maintaining a one-game lead in the Pac-12 race over USC, but the Huskies must make another difficult road trip now, traveling to face Arizona State and Arizona next Saturday and Sunday.