UW Outlasts No. 4 UCLA In Thriller
Sept. 26, 2012
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SEATTLE - One final swing from the right arm of sophomore Krista Vansant capped off a career night and sent the fifth-ranked Husky volleyball team into celebration mode in front of a jubilant Dawg Pack as Washington earned an epic five-set win over fourth-ranked UCLA. Vansant had the final kill to cap the comeback over the defending NCAA Champions, and her 31 kills were the most by a Husky since 2008.
Washington was down two sets to one, and faced match point in the fourth set, but the young Dawgs would not let UCLA out of the boisterous Alaska Airlines Arena that easy. The Huskies (12-0, 3-0 Pac-12) needed extra points to win all three of their sets, holding off the Bruins (9-3, 1-2 Pac-12) by the final count of 22-25, 30-28, 19-25, 28-26, 16-14.
Vansant was sensational on offense, with the 31 kills easily eclipsing her previous career best of 25. She was efficient as well, hitting .448 with just five errors on 58 swings. It's the most kills for a Husky since Becky Perry had 33 at UCLA on Oct. 10, 2008. Fellow sophomore Kaleigh Nelson handled the sidekick role, posting 14 swings, many in key moments.
"I think there's a lot to be learned after this one," said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. "The Bruins know how to win, and we showed a lot of heart, and played well when we had to again. But every kid in the locker room knows we can play better. That's a funny thing, but you beat the fourth-ranked team in the country, you beat the UCLA Bruins, and you know you've got to be better."
The Huskies stayed unbeaten with the back-and-forth win, and also extended UCLA's frustrations in Seattle for a ninth straight year. The Huskies have defeated UCLA in Seattle every season since 2003.
The box score indicates how close it was, as UCLA led in kills, 75-69, but UW had a higher hitting percentage at .292 compared to .238 for UCLA. The Bruins had 72 digs to 66 for UW, but the Huskies led with 14.5 blocks to 13.0 for UCLA. Tabi Love's 25 kills led UCLA and Rachael Kidder added 19, but last year's NCAA tourney Most Outstanding Player was kept under the .200 mark at .196.
Vansant added 11 digs for her fourth double-double of the year. Junior Jenna Orlandini had a season-best 22 digs, and freshman Cassie Strickland impacted in many ways, posting a career-best 12 digs and adding two aces. Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals divided the assists, with Beals posting 31 and Nogueras setting up 30. Playing against her former team for the first time, senior Amanda Gil had eight block assists and six kills while hitting .357.
The teams started out with defense dominating, as both teams had more errors than kills early on. Gil had a huge stuff early on against Kidder, her former teammate, to put the Huskies up 5-4. UW's first kill didn't come until Vansant connected from the left to make it 6-7 Bruins. Muñoz had back-to-back kills for an 8-7 UW lead. As the offenses continued to pick up, Gabbi Parker had her first two kills, but UCLA got to the media timeout with a 15-14 lead. UW tied it up at 15 and 17 but two-straight for the Bruins prompted a UW timeout. Vansant slammed one out of the break, but the teams then traded several points, with UW not able to get even. Kills from Parker and Nelson kept pulling the Huskies within one, but a Husky error late gave the Bruins set point at 24-21. Parker saved the first with a booming kill on the right, but Strickland missed her next serve into the net for a 25-22 win for the Bruins. Parker had four kills and Vansant had three on a .429 attack rate but UW hit just .167 as a team.
Strickland quickly bounced back after the service miss at the end of the first set, as she started serving in the second and UW jumped out to a 3-0 lead thanks in part to her hard jump serve. Gil and Muñoz started with a block, then Vansant really got rolling with two straight kills. Two more from the Redlands product made it 6-3, but the Bruins won five of the next six points to take a one point lead. A UCLA ace forced UW to take time down 9-11. Gil then helped UW storm back, blocking Karsta Lowe on two-straight points, one assisted by Muñoz and another by Vansant. A finish from Vansant gave the Huskies a brief 12-11 lead, but a quick tap down from the setter Becca Strehlow capped a 3-0 Bruins run and UW needed time again down 14-17. Washington didn't make a move until 18-22 down, when Muñoz got a solo roof against Love. Muñoz then got a put-away to cut it to 21-22 and force a Bruins timeout. Washington finally tied it back up at 23, but UCLA earned the first set point on a Kidder kill. Vansant staved it off with a finish, and then Nelson connected on the next rally and it was set point Huskies at 25-24. After another Bruins timeout, Kidders kept things going with a kill and the tension built as UW kept earning chance after chance with big swings from Vansant, Nelson, and Parker. Finally, on their fifth set point, Parker went back to serve for the first time, and she rolled one to the left corner and short, and it found the court for an ace, ending the epic set, 30-28, in UW's favor. Vansant had a whopping 10 kills in the frame with just one error on 15 swings (.600 Att%) as UW out-hit the Bruins, .389 to .208 with six blocks.
After her red-hot second set, Vansant put one to the back line to get UW on the board in the third, then Strickland had her first kill for an early 2-all tie. A Muñoz finish was followed by a Strickland ace for a 7-6 lead. Washington used another 3-0 run with a pair of Vansant finishes around a UCLA error to take a 10-9 lead, but UCLA answered with three right back for 12-10, the latter on a disputed touch call. Vansant finished the next point but UW began to struggle passing the ball and finding some kills outside of Vansant. A UCLA miss had it tied at 12, but the Bruins grabbed a 15-13 lead into the media timeout. The Bruins extended it to a five-point run and an 18-13 lead before Kelly Reeves missed a serve. Washington could not cut the gap within four points the rest of the way, and UCLA won it on its third set point, 25-19. Five service errors cost UW in the frame, despite another six kills on a .417 pace from Vansant.
The fourth set would be another marathon affair. But UW was out of the gates quickly with a 5-2 lead as Vansant kept ticking up her kills total with two more. But it was McLaughlin who needed timeout first as UCLA used a 3-0 run to take a 7-6 edge. Washington went down 8-10 but then Nelson killed the Nogueras set and Strickland then notched her first kill of the night to tie it back up. The Huskies then had their best run of the night, as Kelcey Dunaway served up a 5-0 run for a 16-11 lead. Dunaway had an ace in the stretch and Gil tapped down an overpass. Nelson put away another on the right and then Gil and Nelson teamed up for the block. But the defending NCAA Champs came creeping back, and two straight Kidder kills forced the Huskies into a timeout at 18-16. Muñoz found the angle out of the break, and a UW triple block followed by a Vansant finish had the Huskies looking solid at 22-19. But the Husky offense stalled late, and UCLA started getting one dig and then striking fast in transition. Love had two more kills and suddenly a 4-0 run saw the Bruins up, 23-22. Nelson tied it back up, but another Love kill got UCLA its first match point at 24-23. In the critical moment, Strickland rolled one over the block and it caught the floor, and then the next rally was punctuated by a Muñoz blast and now UW had swung on top, 25-24. After a UCLA timeout, the Bruins took two straight and earned a second match point, but Muñoz came to the rescue this time. Strickland then stepped back and lasered a service ace off Kidder's hand for a second set point. A tight set brought Kidder close to the net, and Muñoz and Gil were waiting for the stuff and the crowd exploded with the 28-26 win.
A wild rally early in the fifth set brought the crowd to its feet again as Kidder missed to cap a long rally for 2-all. But UCLA then went on a 4-1 run to take a 6-3 lead and force the Huskies to take time. After playing past the two hour mark, UW wasn't going away without another rally. Vansant connected with Beals on the left side, then Muñoz and Dunaway rejected Love, but UCLA came back with two straight to rebuild the three-point lead as the teams changed sides again. Beals set Vansant for another kill and then Nogueras rotated in and sent another one to the sophomore. Washington leveled it on the next rally as Dunaway and Nelson blocked the Reeves swing. The run continued on Nogueras' serve as the crowd reached a fever pitch, and Nelson and Vansant finished two more points for a 10-8 lead as UCLA exhausted both timeouts. But Lowe got the side out for UCLA and then the Bruins blocked Strickland to tie it at 11 and force a Husky timeout. Nelson finished a critical rally out of the break, and Gil had one of her best swings to send a low liner to the court for 13-12. Again the Bruins tied it, but they then missed serve and it was match point for the Dawgs. Love had one more big swing up her sleeve as she could not be dug, but Beals found Vansant for her 30th kill on the next play. On the second match point, Beals went to Vansant but the UCLA block sent it back down, but it was covered by Beals. That led Orlandini to bump set it right back to Vansant and this time she got it past the outstretched arms of the block and to the floor to end it, 16-14. The last set saw Vansant add seven more kills to her sensational night.
Now the Huskies will brace for another top-five showdown as third-ranked USC heads in this Friday for a 6 p.m. match. Washington fans are encourage to wear all black to "black out" Alaska Airlines Arena. The match will also be live on the Pac-12 Network.