SEATTLE – The third-ranked Husky volleyball team earned its 12th-straight Pac-12 win tonight with a sweep of the visiting UCLA Bruins. In front of 1,734 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena, Washington (22-1, 14-1 Pac-12) relied on the offense of Krista Vansant and Lianna Sybeldon plus some timely serving for a 25-22, 25-20, 25-21 win. The Huskies now have a huge home date coming up on Friday as No. 4 USC visits with the conference lead at stake.
Vansant, the junior All-American, hit for 14 kills on a .393 attack percentage to lead the UW offense. Sybeldon, the sophomore middle blocker, posted a .500 attack percentage with nine kills, and both players added three blocks. The Huskies hit .260 while UCLA hit .245, led by big nights from Karsta Lowe (16 kills, .375) and Kelly Reeves (13 kills, .375). The teams traded a lot of service errors early, but UW made the most of the serves it kept in, notching six aces to just one for UCLA.
Washington completed the season sweep of UCLA (13-12, 4-11 Pac-12) for the first time since 2009. The Dawgs have now won 11 straight home matches against the Bruins, dating back to 2004.
In the first set, the Huskies won five of the final seven points to break a 20-20 tie as Vansant put away six of eight attempts. Set two was highlighted by some rarely seen swings as the Huskies were low on subs. Junior Kaleigh Nelson stunned UCLA with an ace on her first serving attempt since Oct. 4 at Colorado, then senior Jenni Nogueras ended the set with a slam on an overpass, her first kill in Pac-12 play. The Huskies fell behind big in set three, trailing by as much as six, but battled back and took command with a late 5-0 run to seal it.
On the third set rally, Head Coach Jim McLaughlin said, “We just made some good hustle plays, had good ball control and got good swings. There was a high energy level. We were behind, our backs were against the wall, and we turned it up. I want them to be like that all the time, but we have the ability to make the comeback which is good to know.”
Nelson’s clutch serving also impressed McLaughlin. “She served three balls, not just the ace, but the other two balls were tough to handle. That really gave us an opportunity to win the game. Then at the end of the third game we served tough and had a couple aces, so the girls locked in at the right time.”
Strickland’s opening serve produced an overpass that Vansant killed and then Sybeldon got one down in transition for the first two points. The teams tied at every point up to 9-9, when a Sybeldon kill was followed by the first ace of the night, as Strickland shot one in the seam and then she got a kill out of the back row on the next point for 12-9. Wade added a kill for a 14-10 edge. The teams continued going back and forth with UCLA slowly closing the gap until finally getting even at 20-20 with a block against Muñoz and forcing a Husky timeout. Out of the break, Vansant had a perfect pass and then hammered the Beals set for a key kill. She added another on the right side for 22-21. UCLA tied it again but then Wade and Nelson rejected a Bruins swing and after a wild rally on the next point, it was Sybeldon and Nelson stuffing another one for set point at 24-22, forcing a UCLA timeout. Out of the break, the same pair of Dawgs snuffed out another UCLA swing to end it, 25-22. Vansant was on fire from the get-go, posting six kills on eight attempts with just one error for a .625 percentage.
UCLA missed its first two serves in the second set as service errors became contagious for a while. But Nelson and Vansant had back-to-back kills to open an early 4-1 lead. Nogueras went to the middles Wade and Sybeldon for kills, and another Sybeldon finish made it 9-6. But the Bruins used a 3-0 run to tie it up at 10-10 before missing another serve. Beals floated a serve short for an ace and then Sybeldon got a chance in transition and smacked it for a 15-12 lead at the media timeout. Wade and Vansant stood up to a Lowe swing for a block and 18-15. But UCLA posted a pair to make it 20-19 and force the Huskies into a timeout. Nogueras set Sybeldon for another kill, but UW, nearly out of subs, had to send Nelson back to serve, something she hadn’t done since Oct. 4 at Colorado. Her first serve floated up the line to the corner, and UCLA ducked out of the way as it landed for an ace, her first of Pac-12 play. She then had another tough serve out of a UCLA timeout and it produced a UCLA error. Sybeldon killed a slide set from Nogueras for set point. On the next play, Strickland hammered a serve and UCLA overpassed it to UW’s side. Nogueras, who was playing in the front row for the first time in weeks since UW was out of subs, jumped up like a natural and pounded the overpass down for her first kill since Sept. 19 vs. Coppin State. That capped the set, 25-20. Sybeldon had five kills on seven swings in the set, as UW hit .379, helped by seven UCLA service errors.
Orlandini served an ace for a 3-1 lead in the third set, but UCLA then went on a 4-0 run to take a 5-3 lead until Vansant had a kill. Up 6-5, UCLA then opened up a big lead with a five-point run that a Husky timeout wasn’t able to stop. Vansant stopped the skid with a kill, but UCLA posted a block to get a six-point cushion again at 13-7. The Dawgs began to creep closer as a Sybeldon finish made it 11-15. Key blocks from Wade, one solo and one assisted by Vansant kept the Huskies in striking distance. Nelson ripped a kill up the right sideline for 15-18, and then Wade tossed in an ace. A long rally was capped by a Nelson finish on the right to cut it to one at 17-18 and force a UCLA timeout. The teams traded points until a Strickland serve made the UCLA setter scramble and get whistled for a double touch to tie things up 20-20. The Huskies then moved up on a Vansant kill in transition, and another rough pass off a Strickland jump serve resulted in a Bruins error and they called timeout with the Huskies up 22-20. Out of the break, Vansant added to the lead with her final kill of the match. Strickland served into the net to snap the 5-0 run, but UCLA hit into the antenna to set up match point. Orlandini stepped up and drove a low float that dropped down for an ace to cap the thrilling comeback, 25-21. The Huskies hit just .118 in the final set, but three aces helped offset it. Vansant put away five more kills in the set.
Fourth-ranked USC, 12-2 in Pac-12 play, will be the challenge on Friday, at 6 p.m., in a match on the Pac-12 Networks.