LOS ANGELES – Every Pac-12 road win is precious, and the third-ranked Husky volleyball team withstood a great effort from a talented UCLA team to pull out a big win in Pauley Pavilion tonight in front of 1,075 fans. Washington (16-1, 8-1 Pac-12) claimed two down-to-the-wire sets before running away with the fourth set to close out a 25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 25-13 victory, its first at UCLA since 2009.
The Huskies had one of their best road offensive showings in conference play, hitting .309 for the night with 16 kills from junior Krista Vansant, and two hot-handed performances from Kaleigh Nelson, who had 13 kills and hit .500, and Lianna Sybeldon, who put away 12 kills on a .400 attack percentage. UCLA (11-8, 2-7 Pac-12) was led by 21 kills from Karsta Lowe.
Washington had a big edge in blocks, 15.0 to 7.5, as Melanie Wade had eight block assists, Sybeldon had seven, and Vansant and Kylin Muñoz had five apiece. Senior Jenna Orlandini’s 16 digs led the way, as UW outdug the Bruins, 43-39. Jenni Nogueras set 25 assists and Katy Beals had 22. The Dawgs also had a 6-2 edge in service aces.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin said that UW has to expect teams to play well and serve aggressive against them. “We weren’t in a rhythm but we found a way to win,” he said. “There were some gut check points along the way that we had to win. A couple plays in game three got us going and then that led to the momentum in game four, where we finally settled down and played UW volleyball. The Bruins are a dangerous team, especially at home. I liked Kaleigh tonight and Krista figured it out, and our middles were good.”
Beals set Sybeldon for the first kill of the match for the Huskies then Muñoz had a right side kill off the fingers for 2-1. Vansant had an off-speed roll kill off a Strickland bump set, then Wade and Nelson blocked UCLA’s Klineman for a 4-3 lead. A great Orlandini dig led to a Nelson kill for 5-3. Vansant terminated from the back row for a 7-5 edge. The Bruins tied it up and went ahead 10-9 on a Klineman kill. Sybeldon landed another quick set kill to stop the run and make it 10-11. A tough serve from Nogueras got UW back level and a transition finish from Vansant made it 13-12 Dawgs. Vansant and Wade then stuffed Lowe for a two-point edge and Nogueras followed that with an ace to put the Huskies up 15-12 into the media timeout. Nogueras missed long to snap the 5-0 UW run, but Melanie Wade answered with her first kill. Nogueras quick set Sybeldon in serve-receive for another put-away and 18-15. The Bruins then strung together three straight points as UW’s passing slipped and the Huskies needed timeout at 18-all. Beals went to Sybeldon again to break the run out of the timeout, then Strickland got an assist from the net on a service ace that just rolled over for 20-18, and UCLA took time. Muñoz got a back row touch for a kill and 21-19. A key roll shot to the back line from Vansant got the side out at 22-20, but UCLA answered again. Again it was Vansant, this time from the right, for 23-21. Finally the Huskies scored on serve, as Nelson finished a long rally with a shot off the defense and back out on UW’s side for set point and a Bruins timeout. Klineman saved the first with a kill in serve-receive. Washington then shanked a pass and hit into the net and needed its own timeout down to one set point at 24-23. Out of the break, Vansant delivered a perfect pass and Nogueras set Nelson for a huge slam to the floor to end it, 25-23. Both teams were on fire offensively, with UW hitting .424, offsetting a .500 attack mark from the Bruins. Sybeldon had five kills and hit .714.
Muñoz and Sybeldon had a block of Klineman to get UW going in the second set. Vansant added two more early kills to keep things even through six points. Strickland got up to stuff Nightingale for a 4-3 lead. Sybeldon crunched a kill and then assisted on a roof with Muñoz for a 7-6 lead. The Bruins took two back then Strickland had a kill for 8-8. Down 8-10, the Huskies battled back with a 3-0 run, Muñoz earning a kill after a UCLA block error and then Vansant roofing Lowe straight down on the right. The teams then went back and forth for several points. Muñoz put one away on the right for a 12-11 lead. Another big block from Wade and Vansant kept the lead at 13-12. Consecutive Nelson kills on the opposite side cracked open a slim 15-13 lead at the media timeout. A killer Beals short serve led to an overpass and a Sybeldon kill for 17-14. But UCLA rallied back with two points and UW took timeout at 17-16. Muñoz was blocked out of the timeout to tie things up, then UCLA went up one on an ace served short. Strickland then sailed one long and UW needed timeout again down 17-19. It was 17-20 before UW got out of the run with a UCLA blocking error. Strickland then pulled UW within one with a booming ace and the Bruins took timeout. The next serve out of the timeout went into the net, however, then Vansant missed wide in serve-receive. Sybeldon and Muñoz had a block to keep hope alive down 20-22. But the Huskies would get no closer, and UCLA closed out the set, 25-21, going on a 11-4 run to close out the set.
A Bruin error and a Muñoz kill provided a quick 2-0 lead in the third set. Orlandini found the perfect spot for an ace and a 5-1 early lead. Wade put down a kill on the slide set for a 7-3 edge. The Bruins went on a run to cut it to one, then Sybeldon put down a Nogueras transition quick for 9-7. But UCLA answered with two more, blocking Sybeldon for 9-9. The Bruins then moved on top with two more points and UW needed timeout down 9-11. Down three, Strickland got the side out with a kill off the block, then a UCLA error was followed by a Vansant kill to cap a great rally and it was 12-12. Two more huge Vansant kills kept the Huskies within striking distance down one at 14-15. Vansant then dialed up an ace off the Bruins back row to tie it, and the Huskies reclaimed the lead on a Wade-Nelson rejection. A two-point swap back and forth had UW up 19-18, but Lowe killed in serve-receive to even it. Sybeldon pounded a quick set to make it 21-21, but the setter Moenoa caught UW napping with a dump on the next point. Vansant delivered in serve-receive to tie it at 22. Moenoa tried to steal another kill but missed wide for a 23-22 Husky lead. Vansant pummeled an Orlandini bump set to get UW a set point try at 24-23. Orlandini popped up a Bruins swing and Nogueras had Vansant on the left and Nelson to the right; she went to Nelson with just one blocker in her way and Nelson crushed it to the court to close out the nailbiter, 25-23. UW outhit UCLA, .276 to .162 in the third set, with Vansant hitting .556 with five kills.
A powerful Vansant slam started off the fourth set for the Dawgs. She had a solo stuff of Lowe for an early 4-1 edge. A Vansant kill with a UCLA net violation was backed up by a smashing stuff from Sybeldon and Strickland and UCLA whistled for timeout with the Huskies up 8-3. The lead hit 9-3 before Wade served one long. Washington then struggled to get the quick set connecting and UCLA cut it to 9-6 to force a UW timeout. A Bruins net violation was followed with a big Strickland stuff of Lowe, and then the Husky block (Sybeldon and Muñoz this time) moved to the other side to return the Reeves swing to sender for a 12-6 lead. A tough Beals serve led to a Husky transition chance that Sybeldon put away for 13-6 and UCLA took its last timeout. UCLA snapped the run with a kill out of the break but then served into the net. Vansant broke through the block from the left for a 15-7 lead. The Bruins had a 3-0 run but it was snapped with another crucial block, Sybeldon and Vansant stopping Lowe. An Orlandini float led to an overpass and a Bruins error, then Wade and Muñoz dialed up another roof to build the lead back up to 18-10. Wade and Nelson finished off rallies to keep the Huskies humming. The Bruins sent a free ball over and Sybeldon spiked it for 22-13. Wade got a dig after a tough serve and Nogueras set Nelson for another kill to make it 23-13. UCLA couldn’t track down the next Wade serve for an ace and match point, and the Bruins sent the ensuing swing into the net to end it, 25-13. Nelson rolled in the fourth set with five kills on seven swings without an error, as UW hit .333 as a team to close it out.
Washington now faces a huge road showdown at No. 4 USC on Sunday at 5 p.m. The Trojans defeated Washington State tonight to also move to 8-1 in Pac-12 play to tie UW for the conference lead.