PORTLAND, Ore. – A beautiful afternoon in Portland ushered in the 22nd varsity sport at the University of Washington, as the Husky sand volleyball team played its inaugural matches, and in a bit of a twist, its season finale as well. With plans to phase the sport in gradually over this year and the next, today is the only day on the 2014 schedule, but Washington got a taste of the progress made over the past ten weeks.
Washington’s No. 1 duo for the day was sophomore Cassie Strickland and junior Kaleigh Nelson, and the two showed their court chemistry by winning all three of their matches against the top teams from Oregon, Portland State, and Boise State at The Courts at Eastmoreland in Southeast Portland. In the two official best-of-five matches, the Ducks and Broncos pulled out the team wins, though it was clear the Huskies improved throughout the afternoon.
Oregon had already played eight matches this season and the Broncos had five dual matches under their belts, so UW did its best to make up for the lack of experience. The Huskies and Ducks faced off first, with Oregon earning a 4-1 win. Washington then had its top three teams back in action against Portland State, and all three came away with wins. The day ended with another five-on-five battle with Boise State, and UW took the top two matches but Boise State won the bottom three for a 3-2 win.
Along with the 3-0 record for Strickland and Nelson, the Dawgs were 2-1 at the No. 2 spot to go 5-1 overall in the top two positions. Krista Vansant, the Honda Award Winner last fall indoors, and Kim Condie came back after a morning loss to win their next two matches.
Strickland and Nelson started the day with a dominant win over Tatum Norton and Canace Finley of Oregon, 21-7, 21-14. They had to battle in their next match against Katie O’Brien and Valerie Hughes of Portland State, losing the first set, 17-21, but then coming back to win the second set, 21-17, and finish off the third set, 15-10. Their last match against BSU’s top pair of Alyssa Gammel and Brittany Reardon also went to a third set. UW won the first, 21-15, but lost the second, 14-21. But Strickland and Nelson capped off the perfect day, and season for that matter, 15-12 in the third.
Strickland, who has more sand experience than most Huskies growing up in Huntington Beach, California, said she was surprised by how competitive the matches were since she didn’t know how much experience her opponents would bring. “There were a lot of people who had experience, you could tell, and others who were just naturally really good. Kaleigh and I had some frustrating times but we pulled through. Winning the two third sets showed Kaleigh’s character and toughness. She was really steady the whole time.
“Now I want to keep playing more people, because once I start playing beach I fall in love with it and want to keep playing forever,” said Strickland. “I think it would be such a cool experience for us to keep playing more and more because I felt like we were getting better just in the course of today. Watching the other teams, we were all battling, it was really cool.”
Also earning a win this afternoon was the duo of Melanie Wade and Katy Beals at the No. 3 spot. They defeated Portland State’s team of Corrado and Miyashiro, 21-15, 21-10.
Two Huskies got to suit up and compete for the first time today as well, as freshmen Carly DeHoog and Jade Finau each were called upon after both redshirted the fall indoor season. DeHoog teamed with Justice Magraw at the No. 4 spot and Finau played with Lianna Sybeldon at No. 5. Against Oregon, Finau and Sybeldon saved three match points in the third set to make it 14-14, but Oregon took the next two points for the narrow win.
Washington is planning a full competition schedule next spring as the sport continues to pick up steam with NCAA Championships and Pac-12 Championships possible in the next few years.
The Courts at Eastmoreland
Portland, Ore. – April 12, 2014
Oregon 4, Washington 1
1. Strickland/Nelson (UW) def. Norton/Finley (UO), 21-7, 21-14
2. Nady/Bookout Gonzalez (UO) def. Vansant/Condie (UW), 21-16, 21-9
3. Brenner/Ashen (UO) def. Wade/Beals (UW), 21-13, 21-15
4. Bettendorf/Benson (UO) def. DeHoog/Magraw (UW), 21-18, 22-20
5. Crittenden/Warner (UO) def. Sybeldon/Finau (UW), 16-21, 21-15, 16-14
Order of Finish: 3, 4, 5, 2, 1
Washington 3, Portland State 0
1. Strickland/Nelson (UW) def. O’Brien/Hughes (PSU), 17-21, 21-17, 15-10
2. Vansant/Condie (UW) def. Olden/Haataja (PSU), 21-15, 21-13
3. Wade/Beals (UW) def. Corrado/Miyashiro (PSU), 21-15, 21-10
Order of Finish: 3, 2, 1
Boise State 3, Washington 2
1. Strickland/Nelson (UW) def. Gammel/Reardon (BSU), 21-15, 14-21, 15-12
2. Vansant/Condie (UW) def. Horton/Baugh (BSU), 21-17, 21-18
3. Rose/Oliver (BSU) def. Wade/Beals (UW), 9-21, 21-15, 15-10
4. Murphy/Kinghorn (BSU) def. DeHoog/Magraw (UW), 21-17, 21-12
5. O’Donnell/Duffin (BSU) def. Sybeldon/Finau (UW), 21-14, 21-19
Order of Finish: 5, 4, 3, 2, 1