Washington vs. USC, live on ESPNU, Saturday at 8:30 p.m. | UW-USC Live Stats
LOS ANGELES – The skills that brought Washington into the round of 16 were the same ones that worked tonight at the Galen Center as the third-seeded Huskies defeated 14th-seeded Kansas in straight sets to move into the NCAA quarterfinals. Washington (29-2) used aggressive serving, a strong block and a balanced offense to post the 25-18, 25-13, 26-24 victory, and move on to face sixth-seeded USC, which beat BYU in four sets later tonight.
The Huskies are one win away from returning to the Final Four for the first time since 2006. The Dawgs are into the regional finals for the seventh time in Head Coach Jim McLaughlin’s 13 seasons. Up next will be an 8:30 p.m. match from the Galen Center tomorrow night, broadcast live on ESPNU.
Washington used big runs early in the first two sets to take commanding leads and take the 2-0 edge into intermission. After the break, the Jayhawks (25-8) fought back, as the Big 12 runners-up held a three-point lead on a couple occasions. But the Huskies retook the lead late and closed it out on two straight Melanie Wade kills.
The Huskies outhit the Jayhawks, .240 to .082, and a big difference came at the service line, as UW had six aces, three from senior Jenni Nogueras, while Kansas had none. Nine blocks for the Dawgs also frustrated Kansas, which had just four blocks of its own.
Junior Krista Vansant led all players with 10 kills, and hit .320 with seven digs and three blocks. Sophomore Lianna Sybeldon hit .500 with eight kills on 14 swings and a match-high five blocks. Wade had five kills and four blocks while hitting .364, and sophomore Katy Beals had 19 assists and an ace.
“I’m proud of these guys,” said Coach McLaughlin post-match. “The preparation was good. Kansas is a good team, after scouting and looking at some film, I was a little nervous about the match. They can do some things, they run a unique offense, they’re well-coached. We got on them early, and just did a nice job defensively pressuring them. We served the ball real well and that was a good deal for us. They’re a better team I think than they showed tonight.”
The Huskies are now 7-1 in round of 16 matches under McLaughlin, but are looking to take the next step tomorrow after coming up short in the quarterfinals in 2008 and 2010.
“We’re always knocking on the door, so hopefully this time it opens,” said McLaughlin of reaching the Final Four. “But we’re going to just keep knocking the same way. You’ve got to stay in the process and keep doing what you’re doing, nothing special, and just play good volleyball at this time of the year.”
Vansant took care of the first swing of the night on the first point of the night for a 1-0 Husky lead. Kansas got going with three straight point for a 3-1 lead until Melanie Wade unloaded on a quick kill in the middle. Vansant then took a second contact after a dig and pushed it deep for a kill and 3-all. A third early Vansant kill through the block on the right made it 4-4. Nelson got two straight side outs with slams from the right side on Nogueras sets to keep things even. Strickland finished after an Orlandini dig and then Strickland rejected a slide attempt for an 8-6 Husky lead, and Muñoz put down her first kill in transition to extend the rally. A Jayhawks error and a Lianna Sybeldon transition put-away made it 11-6 and Kansas took timeout with UW on a 6-0 run on Katy Beals’ serve. Beals floated a serve long to end the run after the timeout, but Sybeldon got the serve right back with a quick strike. Sybeldon and Muñoz blocked Dockery to make it 13-7 Dawgs, and they added a second block two points later for 14-8. Kansas made a couple miscues as UW pushed out to a 16-8 lead. Nogueras floated a short serve that was misplayed for a Washington ace and Kansas called its last timeout at 18-9. UW got a free ball out of another tough Nogueras serve and Vansant blocked down a tip for a ten-point lead. After Kansas had two blocks, the Huskies won a massive rally with a Nelson kill off the fingers to quell the rally and make it 20-11. At 21-11, Kansas went on a 4-0 run to force UW to take its first timeout. Kansas chipped another point off the lead but Wade broke the run with a serve-receive finish. Then Wade went back to serve and tossed in an ace to rebuild it to 23-16. On set point, Muñoz worked with a tough off-speed set and rolled it over for the point and the set, 25-18. Washington hit .231 in the first set and held Kansas to a .125 mark. Vansant had four kills (.500) as did Nelson (.143) and Nogueras had six assists, five digs and an ace.
Muñoz and Sybeldon teamed for a rejection on the first point of the second set, and then Strickland hammered an ace off a diving defender for 2-0. A tough Orlandini serve helped prompt a Kansas error for 4-1. Muñoz tapped down a ball above the net for a 6-2 lead, then Wade got the most of a tip attempt for a block. Nogueras then served up another ace for an 8-2 lead. Another Nogueras floater was shanked again on the next point for another ace and 9-2 before Kansas got a good pass and kill from Chelsea Albers. The Huskies continued to do damage on the service line, with Wade putting Kansas into a scramble that ended in an error, and then another Kansas miss long prompted the timeout at 13-4. Nelson and Sybeldon posted an emphatic roof to build the lead to ten before a Kansas kill. The Jayhawks made a charge with three more points to cut it to 14-8 before missing serve. Muñoz landed the best swing in several rallies for the Dawgs for a 16-9 lead, then Sybeldon got a block that went off her head but back over into open space. Vansant put down her first kill of the set and Kansas hit into the antenna to make it 19-10 and force the last Kansas timeout. The Huskies had just four kills for their first 19 points, using aces and blocks to construct the lead. Vansant added another kill and then Kansas hit into the net for 21-10. Wade put one away on a quick set from Beals for 22-11. A huge stuff from Vansant and Wade inched UW closer. A service error brought the Dawgs to set point, and another error ended it, 25-13. Washington hit .263 in the frame, though it needed just six kills to win the set, as UW served three aces, put down five blocks, and received five service errors from Kansas.
The teams traded points early in set three, with UW getting four kills from four different players for the 4-3 advantage. The teams were even through ten points. Sybeldon put one over and it bounced around and fell for 7-7. UW missed serve and then Muñoz hit one wide but Kansas gave one back with an unforced error for 8-9 Jayhawks. Vansant ended a several shot rally with a right side finish off the block for 9-10. Kansas took the next two for a three-point lead but then served long. Strickland drilled a defender with a thud for a kill and 11-13, then a block touch led to a Sybeldon quick swing to cut the deficit to one. But Kansas middle Tayler Soucie put away a pair to get Kansas to the media timeout with a 15-13 lead. The lead went back to three but Vansant answered on the next point for UW and then Kansas missed a set for 15-16. Vansant went deep up the line for 16-17 Kansas. She then had a good swing to tied it but mishit it wide. Vansant and Wade had a booming rejection to get within one again, and then Vansant tied it up at 18-all with a serve that Kansas couldn’t get over. KU retook the lead with a sideout but Nelson retied it from the right. Again Kansas scored and then Sybeldon killed it for 20-20. Beals then hit a low line-drive serve over and off the defense and into the seats for an ace, and Kansas took timeout as UW had its first lead, 21-20, since back at 5-4. Soucie got another kill in serve-receive to tie it out of the timeout. Sybeldon terminated in serve-receive to regain the lead, sending Strickland to serve, but she missed long. UW then had a bad pass on its side and Sybeldon hit a tough set long and now the Huskies needed timeout down 22-23. Kansas gave a service error back for 23-all. Kansas got a good look on the next ball but Caroline Jarmoc shanked a swing long and UW had match point at 24-23, forcing a Jayhawks timeout. A replay was called after the refs blew a play dead that Kansas got up, and then Vansant was dug several times on the replay before UW was called for reaching over the net to tap down a kill, negating a UW celebration. Wade quickly go UW another match point try with a kill for 25-24. On the final rally, a Vansant swing was dug but sailed over above the net and Wade popped up to stuff it down for the win, 26-24. Sybeldon’s five kills led UW in the third set, with Vansant adding four, as the Huskies hit .237, just ahead of the .222 mark for Kansas.