TUCSON, Ariz. – The third-ranked Husky volleyball team answered the bell in another tough road setting today, sweeping Arizona 25-19, 25-20, 25-18 in the McKale Center to complete a weekend sweep in the desert. Junior Kaleigh Nelson led the offense with 17 kills, a career-best for a three set match.
Washington (21-1, 13-1 Pac-12) was playing for the second straight day after a 3-1 win yesterday in Tempe, while Arizona had been off since Thursday, but the Huskies looked sharp and ready from the get-go, taking early leads in all three sets and playing excellent team defense to hold Arizona (17-9, 7-7 Pac-12) to just an .067 attack percentage. Arizona had been 5-0 in Pac-12 play at home this season, including a win over then-No. 1 USC.
The Huskies have now strung together 11 straight wins in conference play, the best conference streak since UW won 12 straight in 2006. The 13-1 conference start is also UW’s best since 2005 when the team went 14-0 before its first and only Pac-12 loss.
“This is a tough road trip, and we came down here and took care of business, so that’s the bottom line,” said 13th-year Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. “But there are things we have to go back to Seattle and get in place and fix. These players are willing to do it. We have got to go do it though, and get it in place in such a manner that we feel very comfortable doing it next time we play. But I was proud of the team, we played well.”
Nelson had just three kills after the first set, but had seven in the second and third sets to finish with a match-high 17 on a .342 attack percentage. Senior Jenni Nogueras had 20 assists, seven digs and three service aces, as UW overcame some early service errors to finish with six aces against three for Arizona. Jenna Orlandini and Cassie Strickland shared the digs lead with 12 each, while Melanie Wade had a big eight block assists. Washington followed Saturday’s 18 blocks with 11 more today. Krista Vansant had eight kills and nine digs, and Kylin Muñoz added five kills and three blocks on a .444 attack percentage.
Vansant put away the first point of the afternoon on a set from Beals, then Arizona overpassed and Wade pushed it down. Another rally ended on a Vansant blast through the block for a quick 3-0 lead. Kylin Muñoz then hit from the right side and Arizona called a quick timeout. Vansant missed long in transition on the next point to end the run but the Huskies answered. Wade dove for the pin and rejected Kingdon along with Nelson for UW’s first block, then Arizona swung long for a 8-2 lead. Sybeldon tipped one over and down to make it 10-3, but Arizona came back with a pair before Nelson got her first kill at the end of a long rally. Strickland and Sybeldon had a big stuff of Croson for 12-6. Croson was then blocked again by Wade and Muñoz for 14-7 and Arizona took its second timeout. UW missed serve out of the break for the third time in the early going, then Croson killed one from the back row. Vansant came back with a kill from an overdig for 15-9. Nelson banged one off the block in serve-receive and then UA misfired for 18-11 Dawgs. Nelson was blocked to cut the lead to 19-13 and then Arizobal put one off the block and UW called timeout with the 19-14 lead. Sybeldon missed one wide but then Strickland hit into the block and it fell wide to snap the 4-0 Arizona run and make it 20-15. Strickland lasered an ace up the sideline for 22-16. Beals and Sybeldon found the rhythm for a quick strike and 23-17. On set point, Nelson put an offspeed swing short and it fell for the clincher, 25-19. The Huskies hit .250 in the set and held Arizona to just .057, though UW made five service errors. Vansant and Sybeldon each had four kills.
Vansant and Sybeldon started the second set with a weak side block of Kingdon, then Sybeldon went the other way and met with Muñoz to block Arizobal, and a Muñoz transition kill followed before UA stopped the run with a kill from Olivia Magill. A diving dig from Strickland led to a Vansant kill high off the hands and a 5-2 lead. Nelson ended another great rally with a right side finish for 6-2. Arizona made a net violation and called time with UW up 7-2. The Wildcats snapped the string with a slide kill out of the break, then Kingdon finished two straight from the back row and the Huskies called timeout up 7-5. Vansant broke the run by tapping down a Croson tip attempt, then Kingdon missed long for 9-5. Nelson snapped another two-point swing with a kill off the block. The Huskies missed a seventh serve, and then Orlandini shanked one for an ace and Arizona had tied it at 11. Arizona gave a couple serves back to UW to keep the Huskies up one, then Muñoz and Wade stuffed Magill, and Orlandini got one back at the service line with an ace to build the lead back to 15-12 and force a UA timeout. Arizobal came through for UA out of the break. Muñoz missed well out and then Beals was called for a setting error and the lead was gone again. But Arizona missed and then Nogueras followed with back-to-back aces for 18-15 as momentum continued swinging wildly. Nelson extended the Nogueras serving run with a right side kill, then Vansant and Wade stuffed Arizobal for 20-15 before Nogueras served into the net to snap the 5-0 run. Vansant delivered a right side shot to the floor to regain serve at 21-16. Arizona sent over a free ball and Nelson hammered it for 23-16. A great Orlandini dig was finished by Nelson through the right to get to set point at 24-18. Arizona saved the first with a kill, then Sybeldon was blocked to save another. But again it was the Nogueras to Nelson connection that came through on the third chance to close out the set for the Dawgs, 25-20. Nelson rolled up six kills on 10 swings with just one error in the frame for a .500 attack mark, and five big Husky blocks helped hold UA to .061 in the set.
Vansant sided out for UW on the first point with a quick strike. Nogueras put UA out of system with another tough serve and Wade and Nelson blocked the Croson swing for 3-2. Nelson then smartly pushed a tight set deep for a point and then UA missed one wide for a 6-3 lead and Arizona took the early timeout. Nelson rocketed another straight to the court from Nogueras out of the break. McLaughlin shouted “Go get it!” at Strickland in the next rally and she made a great approach to hammer off the block for an 8-3 lead before UA broke the run. Washington’s play dropped and several errors allowed Arizona to extend to a 4-0 run to make it 8-7 as UW called time. Arizona tied it at 8-8 before Nelson finally snapped the run with a kill off the block and out. Wade then got UW rolling again with two great serves, one that led to a bad set on UA and another hit the net and fell for an ace. Arizona took timeout, but Nelson finished another long rally with a left side blast for 12-8. But just as UW looked to pull away, Arizona came back again with three in a row before Nelson put one away for 13-11. Strickland made a great back set to Muñoz who got a kill on the right and then Arizona hit long for 15-11 Dawgs as UW answered with its own 3-0 run. A quick set from Beals to Sybeldon in transition was banged down for 17-12, and then Muñoz got another quality swing from the right for 18-13. A stuff from Wade and Nelson on a UA middle attempt made it 20-15 Dawgs, then they moved out and emphatically rejected a big swing from Kingdon, and Nogueras dialed up her third ace for 22-15. The Cats took a pair back but Nelson terminated again, this on from the left and off the back row. She then crushed another after an Arizona overpass from the Vansant serve to get the Huskies a slew of match points. Arizona saved the first but after a brief rally, they missed long on the next to end it, 25-18, for the Dawgs. The Huskies hit just .171 in the set but again held Arizona below .100 at .083. UW also got its serve dialed in with two aces and zero misses. Nelson had seven of the team’s 14 kills in the frame, plus three block assists.
The Huskies now return home and play again in just three days, hosting a tough UCLA squad on Wednesday, Nov. 13, at 6 p.m. and then No. 4 USC, just a game behind UW in the Pac-12 race, comes in on Friday, Nov. 15.