SEATTLE – To win a Pac-12 title, there are bound to be some ebbs and flows in the season, and the Husky volleyball team experienced some of that tonight, but Washington responded well to some adversity as they have all year long, defeating Oregon State in four sets to clinch at least a share of the Pac-12 title. After cruising through the first two sets, 25-17 and 25-11, the Huskies slipped up and dropped the third, 24-26, before charging back to a 25-10 win in set four.
With the win, in front of 2,139 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena, the Huskies improved to 17-2 in Pac-12 play with one match remaining. Stanford earned a win today at Arizona, moving to 16-3 ahead of a home match against Cal. Washington could only be tied atop the conference now, and can clinch the title outright with a win on Friday against Washington State at 8 p.m. in an Apple Cup nightcap. The Pac-12 title, whether shared or outright, will be the third all-time and the first for UW since the Huskies won back-to-back in 2004 and 2005.
Junior Krista Vansant had 15 kills and 11 digs for a double-double, hitting .294 and closing with a flourish in the fourth set, as she had five kills on six swings without an error. Junior Kaleigh Nelson was solid all night, hitting .440 with 13 kills. Sophomore Lianna Sybeldon connected repeatedly from the middle, posting 11 kills on 15 swings with just two errors for a .600 attack percentage.
Washington outhit the Beavers, .289 to .107, and used a 10 to 1 service aces edge to break open several sets. Vansant had three of those aces and Melanie Wade added two to go with five blocks and four kills. Jenna Orlandini had 19 digs and Jenni Nogueras also had a double-double with 25 assists and 10 digs.
It was pretty easy to break down the match for Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. “We played well three games, didn’t play well in the third game and they did,” he said. “We shot ourselves in the foot a couple times. We’re vulnerable we’re not on task with a good edge, competing hard. You can allow yourself to drift a little bit and we did. We weren’t sharp and weren’t in good spots and people can take advantage of it. But overall, a good win, it’s a hard game to play.”
Vansant opened the match with a kill and an ace and then three consecutive kills from Sybeldon, Vansant, and Kylin Muñoz made it 8-3 Huskies in set one. Oregon State got within three points, but UW answered with a 3-0 run to force a Beavers timeout at 14-8. Muñoz and Nelson had back-to-back kills and then Nelson and Wade stuffed Lila Toner in the spurt. Wade put down a Nogueras set for 16-9, and then the Huskies ran off with another 4-0 run to force the last OSU timeout. Nelson had two kills in the run and Wade served up an ace for a 21-11 lead. The Beavers cut a few points off the lead late, but on their second set point, the Huskies finished it, 25-17, as Katy Beals tossed a quick ball up to Sybeldon for a finish. UW hit .429 in the first set, with Nelson going for five kills and no errors on seven swings, and Vansant killing all three of her attempts.
Nogueras began the second set with an ace, but OSU took a brief 3-2 lead until Vansant slammed one to tie it. A handful of Beaver errors helped the Huskies move back ahead, and Strickland boomed an ace for a 9-6 Husky lead. Wade and Muñoz stuffed an OSU swing, then Vansant had a kill thanks to a net violation and OSU called timeout with the Dawgs up 12-7. Out of the break, Vansant and Wade roofed Toner to cap a 7-1 run. Gabbi Parker subbed in for the first time and immediately earned a block assist with Nelson for a 16-8 lead. Parker soon added a kill out of the middle for 18-8 to force the last Beavers timeout. The run reached six straight on a Parker-Vansant block until Nogueras finally missed serve. But Parker came right back with another kill on a slide attack for 21-9. Strickland then got a kill off a net violation, and another through the block for 23-9. Nelson brought the Dawgs to set point, and then Parker ripped an ace, her first all season long, as she has only served in five matches total this season. Washington held OSU to -.167 in the second set thanks to four blocks and five digs from Nogueras. The Huskies hit .261 with three more kills from Nelson and Vansant.
A Wade service ace got the Dawgs an early 4-1 lead in set three, and they maintained that lead at 9-6 after a rejection from Wade and Nelson. Sybeldon had a couple kills, and then Vansant put down a Beals set in transition for 14-10, but suddenly OSU went on its best run of the match, reeling off five straight points including the fifth after a UW timeout to take a 15-14 lead. Sybeldon tied it back up at 15-15 with a kill, and then an OSU error edged the Huskies back in front by one at 17-16. But OSU blocked Vansant for the second time in the set to go back up one. The Huskies answered as Nelson connected and Vansant tossed in an ace and OSU called timeout. Nelson had a kill and then Beals fired an ace up the line and the Beavers took time again as UW went up, 22-20. But then Strickland was blocked, and Sybeldon left a tip too low that was also blocked, and OSU converted a third straight in transition on a Kelsey Zimmerman swing to go up 23-22 and force UW into its last timeout. Strickland had a perfect pass and Sybeldon slammed the quick set out of the break, and then the Dawgs had a triple block stuff of Amy Sorensen to suddenly get to match point at 24-23. But Strickland served into the net, and then after a marathon rally, Vansant hit long and did not get the touch call she was sure of. That gave OSU a set point, and after another long rally, Sorensen got the ball down to extend the match to a fourth, 26-24. Washington hit just .109 in the set, despite five kills from Sybeldon on a .500 mark. Oregon State had its best set, hitting .250, and had four blocks to 2.5 for UW.
Washington responded with a 3-0 run to start set four, Vansant serving an ace. But OSU came back with a pair, serving their only ace of the night. Muñoz and Sybeldon had a stuff of Zimmerman for 6-3, but the Beavers came back with two more. Washington got on a 4-0 run to force an Oregon State timeout as they have many times this season, on Strickland’s service. Vansant and Sybeldon finished Beals sets during the string. After a service error, the Huskies went on another binge, as Orlandini served eight straight points. She and Strickland racked up digs, and Beals went to Vansant for several kills during the decisive run out to an 18-6 lead. Lila Toner got a kill to snap the run; OSU’s first kill since 6-5. Wade and Nelson slammed two straight for 21-9, and Wade notched another for 23-10. Off a free ball, Nogueras set Sybeldon for another booming kill for match point, and then Strickland converted in transition on the next rally to erase any thoughts of an upset with an emphatic 25-10 win. The Dawgs rolled again to a .458 attack percentage in set four, and held OSU in the negatives at -.071. Vansant had five kills without an error on six swings.