SEATTLE – A back and forth roller coaster befitting two of the top-10 teams in the country went No. 6 Washington’s way as the Huskies (15-1, 7-1 Pac-12) overcame No. 7 Stanford in five sets. A season-high crowd of 4,914 fans witnessed the Dawgs overcome a rough first set and rally for a 14-25, 25-21, 25-11, 22-25, 15-12 win that moves the Huskies into a tie for first in the Pac-12.
Junior All-American Krista Vansant had the first 20-20 match of her career, as she had a match-high 23 kills to go with a career-best 20 digs, adding two aces. Another double-double came from sophomore Cassie Strickland, who had her season-best in kills with 12 and had 13 digs. A third double-double was posted by senior Jenni Nogueras, who had 27 assists and 10 digs. Fellow setter Katy Beals had 24 assists, two aces and eight digs, and senior libero Jenna Orlandini had 16 digs plus three aces.
For the third year in a row, the Huskies and Cardinal went the distance in Seattle, with the Huskies winning tonight and in 2011, and Stanford winning 3-2 last year. A loss from USC today has UW tied atop the conference standings at 7-1 with Stanford right behind at 6-2.
“Our personality is starting to surface,” said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin outside the locker room. “When people do their jobs we’re a really good team, then on the other hand when they’re not for whatever reason … we can be not so good like game one. But I thought the best thing was just getting our tails handed to us, then coming back and playing really well. We’ve got good, talented people, we’ve got a good system in place, and once we settled down and just hit our shots with our tool box, we were good. We passed well and we served well and that’s been our backbone.”
Stanford (13-4, 6-2 Pac-12) outhit the Huskies, .287 to .210, but the Huskies had more kills, 63-61, and a big edge at the service line where UW hit 10 aces while Stanford managed only one. Brittany Howard had 14 kills to lead a balanced Stanford attack, but UW held the Pac-12’s leading hitter, Carly Wopat, to just .133 on offense after she came in hitting .498 for the year.
This was the first top-10 win of the season for the Huskies against their first top-10 opponent. It’s also the first win this season for the Huskies after losing the first set, something they’d only done once before. It’s the second five-setter on the season, as UW also won 3-2 over Gonzaga back in the first week of the season.
Sybeldon hammered down a quick set on the first point of the match. Vansant connected at a sharp angle for her first kill for 3-2 Huskies. Washington held a 4-3 lead but then Stanford went on a big run, winning four straight points to prompt a Husky timeout, then adding two more out of the break until Kaleigh Nelson connected from the right side to snap it and make it 5-9. But Stanford came right back with another 3-0 run to force another Husky timeout at 5-12. Cassie Strickland hit one up the line and down for a point out of the break, but Stanford answered with six more points to build an 18-6 lead until Gabbi Parker put one away from the right. Muñoz had a solo block for 8-18. Vansant had a kill and teamed up for a block with Wade to make it 11-20 and Stanford took a timeout, but the Huskies would get no closer as Stanford closed it out, 25-14, on its second set point.
The teams were even through the first few points of the second set, with Muñoz collecting a kill from a Beals set for 4-4. While the Huskies were still struggling to find a rhythm, Vansant kept UW in contact with three more kills for 8-up. A Stanford blocking error had things tied at 12, but then Stanford went on a 3-0 run to get to the media timeout with a 15-12 edge. Sybeldon had a key kill on a quick set out o the break, but Stanford’s Inky Ajanaku added another and Vansant hit into the net and UW needed timeout down 13-17. Vansant had a kill on a free ball, and then the Huskies got some transition offense going, with Vansant putting one through the block for 15-17, and then Nelson converting from the right to cut it to one at 17-18 and force a Cardinal timeout. Another great transition swing from Nelson after a Vansant dig tied it up, and then UW moved ahead, 19-18 as Wopat hit into the antenna and Stanford took timeout. After a long rally, Wade won a 50-50 ball above the net for a kill, and then Nelson put another one down up the line in transition for 21-18. Vansant then aced Howard for 22-18. Stanford snapped the run and added another point for 22-20 to force the Huskies back to a timeout, but Nelson hammered one down from the right out of the timeout, then the league’s leading hitter Wopat was rejected on a slide by Sybeldon and Nelson for set point at 24-20. Stanford saved one, but Nogueras quick set Sybeldon in serve-receive for a strike to the middle to end it, 25-21. Overall from 13-17 down, it was a 12-4 run to close it for UW. The Huskies wound up hitting .310 in the set while Stanford was at .314. Vansant had six kills as did Nelson, as UW needed 18 kills in the set as the Cardinal did not give much away free.
Stanford took the first two points of set three but UW answered with three in a row, the last two on Wade kills. Another Wade finish and a Nelson kill helped by a blocking error on Stanford made it 5-3, then a tough Beals serve led to a free ball for UW and a Sybeldon quick strike for 7-4. The next Beals serve caught the tape and fell over for an ace and Stanford took timeout. Out of the break, a nice Vansant dig led to Strickland ripping up the line for a kill, then a Cardinal error was followed by another Beals ace to the deep corner for 11-4 and Stanford used its second timeout. The Cardinal got two in a row out of the break, but then missed serve and Strickland boomed an ace to rebuild the seven-point margin at 13-6. Another 3-0 Husky run on kills from Sybeldon, Vansant, and Wade pouncing on an overpass made it 16-7 Huskies. The teams swapped points until another UW run completely sealed things, as Vansant served up an ace for a 20-9 lead. Nelson put one down and then Wade added yet another ace for 22-10. The Cardinal had a blocking error for set point and then Strickland hammered a Beals set to the floor to end the set, 25-11. Washington hit .400 in the frame and had five service aces without a single error, holding Stanford to .174 on offense.
In set four, three quick Cardinal points showed they would not be going away, and UW called the early timeout. Vansant hit up the line from the right to get the Huskies on the board, and then A Strickland kill and a Stanford miscue quickly had things even. A rejection from Sybeldon and Muñoz against Burgess gave UW its first lead at 7-6. Stanford retook a one-point lead but Vansant had back-to-back kills and then Stanford had a rotation error, followed by an Orlandini ace for an 11-8 lead and Stanford needed timeout. The Huskies extended out with another Orlandini ace and a Vansant finish for 13-8, but just when the Cardinal were on the ropes, they answered with three kills in a row from Brittany Howard as UW’s passing went south, and the Huskies took time leading 14-12. The Huskies had a couple side outs but could not get away, and a block against Nelson tied it at 16-16. Stanford took a two-point lead but Strickland helped rally UW with a pair of kills to tie it at 18-all. But Stanford answered with two more until a Muñoz finish made it 19-20. Back and forth, UW crept within one, and had a few swings to tie the set, but couldn’t get the bounce to go its way. Nelson was blocked by Wopat and Howard for set point at 22-24, and then the setter Madi Bugg smartly pushed a pass deep to UW’s back row after a scramble and it fell for a kill to end the set, 22-25. Stanford hit .368 in the set to just .136 for the Huskies, with UW making it up with three more aces to none for Stanford, which also missed three serves.
Looking for more offense besides Vansant in set five, the senior Muñoz stepped up with two critical right side kills to start the set. Wade put one down in the middle of the court, then Ajanaku poked one long and Stanford needed timeout down 2-5. Vansant’s tough serves led to a Cardinal shank and a fantastic back row kill from Vansant after a bump set from Nogueras from the scorer’s table. That made it 7-2 and forced Stanford’s last timeout. Wade then rejected a tip attempt from Ajanaku and the teams switched sides with UW up 8-2. The side change seemed to rally Stanford, as it cut right into the Husky lead with three straight kills to force UW into a timeout. It was 8-6 before Nogueras set Strickland for a crucial kill up the line. Nelson then roofed Ajanaku for a 10-6 lead, but the Huskies then missed serve and Strickland tipped into the antenna off a bad pass for 10-8 and another UW timeout. Stanford crept within one on the next point, but Sybeldon converted in serve-receive from Nogueras for 11-9. Again Stanford got the sideout, but Strickland landed another blow. The teams then swapped service errors followed by a Rachel Williams kill to make it 13-12 Huskies. Beals set Vansant for a clutch kill to bring up match point at 14-12, then on the next play, Strickland had a big dig and Nogueras went right to Vansant on the left, and she connected to close out the thriller, 15-12. In the final set, Vansant killed four of her five swings without an error, and UW hit .308 while Stanford was at .125.
Washington now heads back out on the road, visiting Los Angeles to take on UCLA and No. 1-ranked USC next Friday and Sunday.