SEATTLE – The sixth-ranked Husky volleyball team applied great pressure from all around the court, and after a slow start in set one, pulled away from a game California squad for a 25-23, 25-21, 25-20 win at Alaska Airlines Arena. Juniors Krista Vansant and Kaleigh Nelson seemingly matched each other swing for swing from the left and right, both ending up with 14 kills, as Vansant surpassed 1,000 kills for her career.
Washington (14-1, 6-1 Pac-12) trailed by as many as six points in the first set, but gained its footing and played very solid the rest of the match. The Huskies hit .293 for the night, with California (10-6, 3-4 Pac-12) finishing with a .216 mark led by 16 kills from Adrienne Gehan and 15 from Christina Higgins. The teams were even with five blocks a side and 53 digs a side, but the Huskies, the NCAA aces leader, had five service aces to none for Cal.
Vansant hit .448 with just one error tonight, and with her sixth kill she became the 16th Husky to pass 1,000 kills, appropriately enough as the Redlands, Calif. native wears No. 16 on her back. Nelson had seven of her 14 kills in a huge first set, and hit .323. Senior Jenna Orlandini had a match-high 15 digs, and sophomore Katy Beals put up a nice line of 15 assists, nine digs, and two aces without an error.
“It was the best volleyball we’ve played start to finish, and I think Cal’s an excellent team; it’s hard to believe they’re not ranked,” Head Coach Jim McLaughlin said after the win. He ran over the side out percentage, passing numbers and attack percentage numbers, all of which were good to start and got progressively better, a satisfying level of consistency for the coach.
“We had some adversity and responded, being down 12-6, and that says a lot about the team. Then when it got crunch time at the end, we went on little runs, and that says even more about the team.”
The Huskies now await a big showdown on Sunday evening, as No. 7 Stanford will come to town after first stopping in Pullman to face Washington State. The match is set for 4:30 p.m. and will be a Dads & Daughters Night as well as Breast Cancer Awareness Night.
Washington got off to a slow start in the first set, with just one kill from Melanie Wade and five errors over the first nine points, falling behind 2-7 and needing a quick timeout. A 3-0 Husky run capped by a Beals ace cut it to 5-7, but Cal answered right back with a 3-0 run of its own to regain the five point lead. Vansant sparked another burst with her first kill, and a couple Cal errors after tough Orlandini serves made it 10-12. The teams then got their offenses rolling, each terminating quickly with one swing back and forth. Nelson had three kills for the Dawgs during the middle stretch. A Muñoz finish cut the gap to one at 15-16, and UW had a few swings to tie, but Cal converted and then took the next point to force a Husky timeout at 15-18. An ace from Strickland and a Sybeldon kill off another overpass made it 18-19 and Cal called time. The Bears held off UW for a couple more points, but finally the Huskies tied it up at 21-21 on a Nelson slam up the right sideline. Cal went back up on a Gehan kill, but Vansant answered, and then UW went up for the first time all set on another Nelson finish, 23-22. Vansant missed serve into the net, but Nelson came right back with another rocket for set point at 24-23. Then Wade stepped to the service line, and dropped one right into the middle of the Bears defense for an ace to give the Huskies their only two-point lead of the set at exactly the right moment, winning 25-23. Nelson had a monster first set with seven kills, while Vansant hit .400 with four kills. UW was outhit, .282 to .234, but came on strong after the slow start, and had three aces to none for Cal.
UW took the first point of the second set, and early kills from Strickland, one off an overpass by the Bears had the Huskies with a 6-4 lead through 10 points. Washington’s first block of the match was put up by Muñoz and Sybeldon for a 7-5 lead, then Muñoz and Wade added another for 10-7. The block parade was joined by Nelson and Wade on the next point to force a Cal timeout. The Bears battled back within two points, but then Beals served another Husky run with finishes from Muñoz and Sybeldon for a 16-11 edge. Two points back for Cal prompted McLaughlin to call time, and UW remained stuck out of the break as two straight Higgins kills got it to 16-15 before the Bears missed a serve. Vansant put one down on a bump set from Orlandini for 18-15. A blocking error on UW and a kill from Gehan brought Cal back within one, but Vansant put away a Beals set for 20-18. Three more times the Bears pulled within one, but the Huskies kept responding. Nelson found the floor for 23-21 and Cal took its last timeout, but on the ensuing rally, Muñoz leapt up from the left and spiked one off the blockers and in to bring about set point. Just like in the first set, UW didn’t waste any time, as Beals tossed a serve off the arms of Gehan and into the crowd for an ace to end it, 25-21. In the second set, the Huskies outhit the Bears, .323 to .167, with a balanced attack of five players with at least two kills, and seven digs from Orlandini.
The teams started out even again after the intermission. Three kills in four points from Vansant leveled the score at 7-all. Wade ran around for a slide set from Nogueras and put it away up the line with vigor. Nelson finished a Nogueras back set and then slowed down Higgins with a block of her right side swing to push UW into the lead. Cal then hit one long and another Nelson transition kill made it 12-9 Huskies on a four-point surge and Cal took timeout. The break was effective, as Cal came back with two straight points and five out of six total to go back on top, 14-13, and force the Huskies into a timeout. Gehan missed just long out of the back row after a long rally to tie it, then a tough Strickland serve led to another back row miss from Cal. Strickland then pounded a serve off Gehan and over the net and out for an ace. Then yet another tough serve put Cal in disarray and ended with a miss into the antenna for a 17-14 UW lead and a Bears timeout. Three points later, Vansant perfectly timed a slide attempt from Schonewise and rejected it straight down for a 19-15 edge. She added two more kills as the teams went back and forth. Then Nelson was the recipient of a Nogueras set for 23-19 Dawgs. After a Bears point, a tough rally was punctuated by Muñoz connecting from the left for match point. UW raced from defense to offense on the next rally and Beals set Vansant for a final swing up the line and down to end things, 25-20. The Huskies turned up a .342 mark in the third set, with Vansant rolling for six kills on eight swings without an error, and Nelson adding five more.