PORTLAND, Ore. – In its 2013 season opener, the fifth-ranked Washington volleyball team laid out a solid blueprint for fellow Husky sports to follow this weekend, as UW swept Boise State at Portland State’s Peter W. Stott Center. The match was the first of three that the Huskies (1-0) will play this weekend as part of the Northwest Challenge, also featuring the host Portland State Vikings and Gonzaga.
Washington won its 12th consecutive season opener by the count of 25-18, 25-16, 25-16. Looking to obtain similar results tomorrow will be the Husky football team, opening up against Boise State, while women’s soccer also hosts the Broncos on Sunday.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin, whose only season-opening loss at UW came in his first season in 2001, was satisfied with the evening. “It’s always good to get the first one under your belt,” said McLaughlin. “Teams are going to play well against us which is a good thing, so the concern is that we focus on what we need to do. We saw some good stuff tonight and some not so good stuff. Some people reverted back to their old way of doing things. But we had some good performances just by players doing what they are supposed to do.”
Junior All-American Krista Vansant had a double-double in the opener with team-highs of 11 kills and 10 digs. She came on strong in the third set after struggling in the first two, killing six of eight attempts in set three without an error. Washington ran a lot of offense through its middles and got a great return. Sophomore Melanie Wade hit a career-best .692 with a career-high-tying nine kills and no errors on 13 swings. Sophomore Lianna Sybeldon also had seven kills, hitting .417, and senior Gabbi Parker connected on six kills without an error on 12 swings.
“We had 37 balls to the quick hitters which is very good,” said McLaughlin. Senior Jenni Nogueras had 23 assists and sophomore Katy Beals added 13 as the Huskies hit .400 for the night. “I liked what the setters did,” McLaughlin said, “I thought they made some good choices. “A little bit too much variability in the beginning but they settled down and their mechanics were good.”
Although the Huskies had a 9.0 to 4.0 edge in blocks, McLaughlin said his team “didn't block well; we weren't in as many good spots so we can really upgrade there.” Senior Kylin Muñoz led the way with six blocks, part of an impressive overall night as she also had seven kills without an error on 11 swings for a career-best .636 attack percentage.
Washington never trailed in any of the three sets, and only once was the score tied at 1-1 in the second set. The first point of the 2013 season came from junior Kaleigh Nelson, who got a kill on a set from Vansant. Leading 8-7, the Huskies had a nine point run on Nogueras’ serve to take a 17-7 lead in set one and though Boise State was able to cut it down to a five-point gap, the Huskies won the last two points on a Sybeldon kill and a Nogueras ace.
Another run on Nogueras’ serve came early in the second set, as Sybeldon got in on a couple blocks to take the Huskies from a 7-6 lead out to 11-6. Two kills from Wade and one from Parker stretched it to 16-9, and a Vansant ace made it 19-10, as UW went on to win the second set, 25-16.
Nogueras started serving again in set three and that led to the first three points for UW, two on rejections by Parker and Muñoz and the third on a Nogueras ace. Wade found the floor for a kill an then teamed with Nelson for a block and a 9-3 lead. Sophomore Cassie Strickland made her presence felt in the third set with a couple kills, and her ace made the lead 21-12 and forced Boise State’s last timeout. On match point, Parker terminated the Nogueras set for the 25-16 edge. The Huskies upped their attacking numbers each set, from .317 in set one, to .458 in set two, and .467 in the third set.
Washington will now have a double-header on Saturday, first playing the Vikings at 12 noon, then the Bulldogs at 5:00 p.m.