After going 3-0 in their matches in Maribor, the Huskies knew they would be in for their biggest challenge in Milan, where they would compete at the Italian National Training Center against a collection of Italian national team roster members looking to impress and earn their way onto major tournament rosters. Rather than being a U23 team that was initially reported, this was a group ranging in age and international experience with several very talented veterans.
Match 1 vs. Italian National Team
As was the case in their first match in Maribor, the Huskies seemed a little uncomfortable in their new setting in the first set. The Huskies fell behind 7-1 before gaining their footing. Early, the middles provided some production, with a Lianna Sybeldon kill and a big block from Melanie Wade. A Katy Beals ace cut the gap to 15-10, but the Italians came right back with five points in a row to make it 20-10. Wade and Kaleigh Nelson combined for another big block late, but the Italians fired an ace on set point to take it, 25-13.
If the Italian team thought the whole night would be so easy, the Huskies dispelled that notion. Jenni Nogueras had two aces to start the second set, and Kylin Muñoz hammered two big kills from the right and left sides. A Gabbi Parker transition swing made it 8-3. Sybeldon had a couple more kills to help the lead to 10-5. Wade slammed a quick set home and then Muñoz got a huge stuff for 12-7 and an Italian timeout. UW added three straight for 17-11 featuring a Vansant back row kill out of system, which forced Italy's last timeout. Wade had a big rejection for 20-15, and then Muñoz added a little redirection over the net for a kill. Muñoz slammed another from the left pin, and then Vansant served up an ace to get to set point. Now on the right side, Muñoz roofed another heavy swing straight down to win it for the Dawgs, 25-16.
Washington was unable to maintain their edge at the start of set three, falling behind early as in the first set. A Muñoz kill and Orlandini ace got UW going after an early timeout. Vansant had a stuff and Wade aced the Italians to get it back to 8-11, but the gap increased to 9-15 after a pair of Husky miscues. Parker fired a rocket and then Kim Condie followed with her first ace, then another Parker kill after a Condie serve produced a free ball brought it back to 16-20 after UW had trailed by eight. But that was as close as the Huskies would get, as a late push got the Italians the 25-17 win.
The Huskies had a nice early run in set four to open up a small gap on the Italians. Muñoz and Sybeldon teamed for a block and then Sybeldon tipped one to the floor for a 5-2 lead. They maintained the lead to 10-9, but Italy rattled off three in a row to force a Husky timeout. Vansant ended a long rally by banging one off the block to snap the Italy rally. A five point deficit was trimmed to 16-19 after Wade had a right side kill up the sidelines, but Italy was able to side out a few more times and finish off the set, 25-20.
Despite Italy having clinched the 3-1 win, the teams agreed to play a fifth set to 15 points. Katy Bealsstarted set five with an ace. Muñoz continued her dynamic attacking with two right side kills, and Justice Magraw sent an ace to the back line for a 10-5 Husky edge. Three for Italy made it 10-8, and forced a UW timeout. Vansant stopped the run with a kill, then Beals served up an ace. Parker and Nelson teamed up for a roof and a 13-8 lead, forcing Italy into a timeout. Nelson slammed one from the left to earn set point at 14-10, and the Dawgs closed it out with a final ace to take set five, 15-10.
Match 2 vs. Italian National Team
Following an afternoon where the Huskies gawked at some of the sights of Milan, centuries-old cathedrals and the latest designer fashions within the same piazza, the Dawgs were back at the National Training Center for another crack at the Italian squad.
Washington was much more ready to go in the first set on Sunday. Gabbi Parker stuffed down an Italian tip attempt for the first UW point of the match. A Kylin Muñoz kill gave the Huskies their first lead at 5-4. Italy moved back ahead until a tough, slicing swing from Krista from back at the 10-foot line found the floor to tie it at seven. Kaleigh Nelson hammered one off the defense from the left for 9-9. The teams kept trading points, with a solo roof from Melanie Wade putting UW up, 11-10. But three in a row from Italy made it 11-13 and forced a Husky timeout. Cassie Strickland broke the run out of the timeout with a kill to the corner. Another rejection from Wade made it 13-all. Vansant hit a sharp angle for 15-16, but Italy pushed back up 19-16 and UW took its last timeout. A kill from Vansant on a combo set provided a lift, but UW missed its next serve. Down 20-24, the Huskies saved two set points, and then Muñoz got the Husky parents fired up with a long rally-ending kill for 23-24, and Italy took timeout. The Dawgs then tied it with a triple block from Vansant, Parker and Muñoz, with Muñoz coming away with the big piece. But Italy got a quick kill out of the middle to get another set point, then got an ace that caught the tape and fell over for the 26-24 win.
Washington quickly grabbed a 5-2 lead in the second set, with Muñoz posting two big kills early. A Katy Beals ace, then a Kaleigh Nelson kill made it 8-4. Italy hit long, and then Parker had a solo stuff for 12-6, forcing an Italy timeout. A big Vansant swing, an Italy misfire, and a Muñoz tip made it 16-8 Dawgs and Italy took its last timeout. The Huskies continued to roll right along, with Nelson adding two from the left, and Wade roofed the Italians for a 21-14 edge. Italy crawled all the way back within two points at 22-20, as the Huskies let two serves fall in for aces untouched, but UW then closed out the final three points in a row to stop any comeback. Muñoz put an offspeed kill to the back line on set point to seal it, 25-20, and tie up the match.
In set three, the Huskies went up 3-2 but Italy picked up three straight for a 5-3 lead. Washington was aced to go down 5-9, and needed a timeout. An ace from Jenni Nogueras got it back to 9-11, and shortly after that a big Lianna Sybeldon block cut the gap to 12-13. UW got even at 15-all on a Parker quick slam. The set was tied three more times, but the Huskies couldn't grab the lead, and at 18-18 Italy won the next two points and UW took its last timeout. The Huskies simply could not break out of the run, thanks in part to the Italian's powerful jump serve, and Italy rolled to five more points to take the set, 25-18, a 7-0 run to finish.
Playing their fifth match in six days against a team of talented pros, the Huskies began to show a bit of fatigue in the fourth set. Although early on, a Sybeldon block put the Dawgs up, 5-4. A Muñoz combo kill tied things at 9-9. Nelson hit through the block for 11-12, but two more Italy points forced a Husky timeout. Again the Italians broke things open with a big run, suddenly taking a 19-12 lead. Washington made a last run, with a Strickland ace starting a 3-0 run including one wild play that included an Italian kick save, and another joust at net before a Vansant finish. Italy missed long to make it 16-22, but they got the next pair to earn match point. The Huskies would save three match points, one on a Jenna Orlandini ace, but the Italians were able to close it out at 25-19.
Match vs. Pallavolo Perugia 2012
Early Monday morning the Huskies were back on the bus for their longest road trip of the tour, a full seven hours with a couple rest stops from Milan to Perugia, Italy, the capital city of the Umbria region and an official sister city of Seattle.
For its last match of the trip, Washington would face Pallavolo Perugia 2012, the local club team, made up of 18-22 year-old athletes. The arena had a look reminiscent of the old Pauley Pavilion at UCLA, with light blue in the center and at the ends, and yellow lines cutting through.
Despite now playing match six in a seven day span, and coming off the long bus trip, the Huskies were ready to compete. Krista Vansant landed the first kill of the night, which set an early trend. Vansant had five kills in UW's first 10 points and then served an ace for an 11-7 lead. Melanie Wade and Cassie Strickland built a block for 13-9. On the next point, Jenni Nogueras had two diving digs to keep the rally going until Kaleigh Nelson finished and Perugia took time. Justice Magraw and Katy Beals added aces to make it 17-10. Perugia took time again after Nelson finished from the right for 21-13. Strickland and Gabbi Parker had a stuff to set up set point, and a Perugia service error ended it, 25-16.
Perugia took the first point of the second set, but then the Huskies ran off six points in a row, two early kills from Nelson and two block assists from Wade helping the cause. Nelson and Lianna Sybeldon teamed for a rejection for a 10-5 lead. Strickland then ripped two aces in a row for 12-5. Muñoz put one away for 18-11, then Jenna Orlandini had a long, overhead bump set to Nelson who took it in stride for a big kill that made it 20-11. Vansant had a couple kills to get to set point, and then Muñoz put the set away with a flourish for 25-14.
Beals began the third set with a pair of aces. Two more Muñoz kills made it 10-7 in the Huskies' favor. Perugia tied it up at 10, but Washington answered with a 4-0 run with two more Vansant kills. Nelson hit off the blockers for 17-11. Perugia closed to within three, but back-to-back Strickland aces pushed the lead back to five at 21-16. A Vansant kill brought up set point, and Sybeldon pounded one straight to the floor to clinch it, 25-17, with UW winning six of the final seven points.
The teams agreed to play one more set, with the Huskies urging each other to finish strong. Sybeldon had a pair of early kills, and Vansant ended a very long rally with a slam as UW built an 8-2 lead. But Perugia rallied right back and tied things at 9-9. A Wade and Parker stuff stopped the run and made it 11-10 Perugia. An ace from Orlandini then tied it back up at 12-12. Washington moved back up by a pair after Sybeldon hammered two more out of the middle. A four point Husky run broke it open again at 22-17, with kills from Wade and Nelson, a block from Wade and a Strickland ace making up the run. Washington went on to complete the four-set sweep, 25-19.