BOISE, Idaho – Continuing to ride the red-hot arms of seniors Krista Vansant and Kaleigh Nelson, the fourth-ranked Husky volleyball team swept Boise State today at Bronco Gym to complete a 3-0 stint at the Northwest Challenge. Washington was pushed to five sets earlier in the day by Gonzaga, but hit at a fantastic .542 clip as a team to knock off the Broncos, 25-19, 25-15, 25-17 in front of 1,013 fans.
Washington is now seven for seven in winning the Northwest Challenge, which rotates each year between UW, Boise State, Gonzaga, and Portland State. Head Coach Jim McLaughlin was pleased with the way the team handled the adversity of the five-setter earlier in the day and then responded with its best match of the weekend.
“Teams will play well against us, they have nothing to lose, and they play loose,” he said. “We’re mixing some parts right now, but we handled some adversity, and I think that’s a big deal. To be able to have the composure in the fifth game against Gonzaga, it will serve us well down the road. The kids are starting to feel more comfortable. We made a step forward playing two matches back to back and working on the things we need to work on. But I like this group and I think we have a shot.”
The Huskies tied a school record by committing just one attacking error all match long, getting 40 kills on 72 attempts with just one error, a Boise State block in the second set, meaning the Huskies never once hit out of bounds. Washington’s record for attack percentage is a .590 effort in 2011 against Prairie View A&M where it also made just one attack error. Vansant led all players with 14 kills on 18 swings without an error for a career-high .778 attack percentage, while Nelson had eight kills on 13 swings for a .615 mark. Adding that to her career-high 26 kills from earlier in the day, and Nelson had 34 kills at a .545 attack percentage on Saturday. Vansant’s attack mark was the best by a Husky with a minimum of 10 kills since Alesha Deesing also hit .778 with the same 14-0-18 line in 2006.
McLaughlin thinks his senior outside hitters are beginning to expect more from themselves. “I’m always impressed with them, and they’re going to get more from themselves as the season progresses. Against Gonzaga, Kaleigh hit out of bounds and Krista hit out to end the fourth set but they held course and both ended up playing great. We just became more aggressive as the weekend went. That’s the UW way. There are some expectations that they welcome and they can’t be afraid of. If you’re aggressive you are going to make some errors but that’s how you grow as a player.”
A lot of the credit for UW’s hot hitting goes to the setters, Katy Beals and Bailey Tanner, as Beals had 21 assists and Tanner added 15. Melanie Wade had four kills on four swings, and added two aces and two blocks, and Cassie Strickland had 14 digs to go with three service aces.
The first set was a back and forth sideout battle, with Vansant picking up the first two Husky kills and Wade serving an early ace for a 4-3 lead. The teams swapped points until Vansant put one down for 8-all. Boise State inched out to a two-point lead at 12-10, but Nelson finished a Beals set, and then Vansant hit from the right to tie it at 13, but BSU went back up on the next rally. Crissy Jones tied it up at 15-all and a Broncos error put UW up one, then Vansant rolled one short for a kill and a 17-15 lead. Vansant put another away as the teams stayed red hot offensively. Wade slammed one down out of the middle on a quick Beals set, then Vansant assisted on a Nelson kill for 21-17 and Boise State called timeout. Out of the timeout, Wade dropped her second ace short and to the floor. After a Nelson right side connection made it 23-18, Boise State took its last timeout. A kill from Jones on a slide got UW to set point at 24-19 and BSU went into the net on the next point to end it, 25-19. Washington hit a scintillating .700 in the first set, with 14 kills and zero errors on 20 attempts, with Vansant notching seven kills on eight swings without a miss. The Huskies needed it, as Boise State was no slouch either, hitting .577 in the frame.
Wade converted on a slide for UW’s first point of the second set. A rejection by Vansant and Wade caught BSU’s Maddy O’Donnell on the way down for an early 4-1 lead and the Broncos called a quick timeout. Another block out of the break from Wade pushed it to 5-1 before the Broncos converted a free ball. UW let a free ball drop for a kill, but regained momentum after winning a rally that pushed the minute mark, with Scambray getting the kill on a BSU blocking error to go up 9-6. Vansant connected from the left for an 11-8 lead. The Huskies then surged ahead on a pair of Scambray kills and an ace from Vansant to crack open a 15-9 lead and force a Boise State timeout. Vansant picked up yet another ace out of the timeout and then Nelson banged one off the block for 17-9 and ripped one past the defense on the next point to double up the Broncos, 18-9. Washington’s first attack error of the entire match didn’t come until a Boise State block made it 20-12. Strickland lasered an ace to the back line for 23-14 Dawgs, then Vansant ripped crosscourt from the left for set point. Crissy Jones put it away by tooling the block from the right, ending it, 25-15. The Huskies cooled off from the first set but only down to a still impressive .400 while Boise State hit just .111 in the second set. Wade killed all three of her swings and Nelson, Vansant, and Scambray all had three kills as well.
An ace from Katy Beals made it 2-2 early in the third set but Boise State then went on a 3-0 run to take its biggest lead thus far. A Broncos ace made it 4-8. Sybeldon and Scambray teamed for a block and a BSU setting miss got UW back to 7-8. Freshman Courtney Schwan extended the run to tie at 8-all and then Sybeldon had a solo stuff to put the Huskies up before Boise sided out to snap the five point surge. Tanner put a perfect quick set up for Sybeldon for a slam and a 12-10 lead, then Strickland crushed a jump serve for an ace and a three-point cushion. Another great serve led to a Broncos setting error and 14-10. Consecutive finishes from Vansant and Wade had UW stretching out to a 17-11 lead as Beals’ serves did damage. Scambray went up the line from the left for a 22-14 lead and the Broncos took their last timeout. Sybeldon connected to bring UW to match point at 24-16 and Schwan hit off the block to bring the match to a close, 25-17. The Huskies rolled once again to a .591 hitting percentage in the set, getting 13 kills without an error on 22 swings, with five Huskies having at least two put-aways.
Washington will be on the road again next weekend, facing its first ranked opponent of the year, as it visits No. 9 BYU next Friday in Provo, Utah.