Black-To-Black Wins: Huskies Upset No. 3 USC
Sept. 28, 2012
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SEATTLE - The "black out" mojo was back in action one night after the Husky football team put it to good use in the upset of Stanford. Washington's fifth-ranked volleyball team swept third-ranked USC at a blacked out Alaska Airlines Arena tonight in front of a season-high 4,083 fans, and a record 1,020 students crammed into the Dawg Pack.
Following up on Wednesday's heart-stopping five-set win over No. 4 UCLA, the Huskies (13-0, 4-0 Pac-12) completed their seventh home sweep of the Los Angeles schools in the past eight years. The key moment was a four-point run UW used at the end of the second set to go from set points down to a 26-24 win. UW handed USC (13-2, 1-2 Pac-12) just its second loss this year, 25-23, 26-24, 25-21.
This marks the first time that the Huskies have defeated top-five teams in consecutive matches since 2006. It was the same opponents that year, with UW beating No. 5 USC and No. 4 UCLA on Oct. 26-27. It's also the best overall start for UW since going 15-0 to start the 2009 season.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin thought it was an impressive way to back up the UCLA win. "We grew up a lot," he said. "We were talking about an opportunity to take another step forward. It showed some maturity in this group. Beating the Bruins was an emotional win, and sometimes you can take a step back, but I challenged these guys not to. They rose to the challenge and really played well, still screwed up at times, but recovered, and that's the sign of a good team when you can recover."
Sophomore Krista Vansant followed up her career night on Wednesday (when she hammered UCLA for 31 kills) with another team-leading 12 kills on a .370 attack percentage to go with seven digs. Washington's senior middle blockers, Amanda Gil and Kelcey Dunaway, each came up big. Gil had five kills and six block assists, and Dunaway was the reverse of that with six kills and five block assists while hitting a season-best .556. Dunaway's previous season-best for kills was three.
Washington made up for a deficit in kills with a fantastic night serving. Senior Kylin Muñoz was inserted into the service rotation tonight, and tied her career-high with five aces, with several more serves disrupting the Trojans. Freshman setter Katy Beals also added a pair of aces, and led the way with 14 assists as the Dawgs outhit USC, .239 to .221. Washington had eight aces overall while USC managed just one against 12 service errors.
"We do some (serving) battles in practice, and Ky was just awesome this week," said McLaughlin. "So I told her the best six servers are going to serve, so we were out there without a setter (in that rotation). The most important thing is how we serve, so we're going to put a premium on that."
The Huskies unveiled the twist early in the first set, as Muñoz stayed in to serve rather than checking out in UW's 6-2 rotation. It paid off as UW went on a 5-0 run with Dunaway assisting on two blocks and Muñoz firing off an ace for a 7-2 edge. But the Huskies then stalled and USC answered with a 7-1 run that tied it at 9-9. A 3-0 Husky run on a Beals ace and kill from freshman Cassie Strickland gave the Dawgs a 12-10 edge. USC came back to force five ties until another Muñoz ace got a two-point edge back at 17-15. However, that was quickly answered by a 3-0 Trojans run with a pair of kills from middle Alexis Olgard. Down one, Gil stepped up with her first kill of the night to tie it at 21, then Muñoz landed her first kill from the right side in transition for a 22-21 lead forcing a USC timeout. Out of the break, Gil and Muñoz stuffed the Sara Shaw swing and then Beals aced the Trojans again for set point at 24-21. USC saved the first two and the Huskies called time, but on the next play, Muñoz adjusted to a tight, wide set and tipped the ball over the block and it fell for the set, 25-23. Washington hit just .129 in the set, while USC was at .216, but four Husky aces closed that gap and UW had six blocks to just two for the Trojans. Vansant kept the attack percentage afloat with five kills on eight errorless swings (.625).
The Muñoz serving gambit continued early in the second set, as she hammered consecutive aces for an early 4-3 lead. The teams traded sideouts until Dunaway sent a big spike down and then Orlandini bump set one that Vansant hammered at a sharp angle inside the block for a 12-9 lead and forced a USC timeout. Strickland went off the fingers for a kill and a 15-12 edge, but a 4-1 run by the Trojans tied things back up at 16-all. The Dawgs inched back ahead with a huge rejection from Gil and Vansant on a Fuller swing, but USC then took the next three points to open a 19-17 lead and force UW to take time. Vansant went up the line on the left out of the break to stop the run, but the Dawgs fell down, 19-22, and were on the ropes. Kaleigh Nelson got it going with a kill from the right, then Dunaway cut another point off the lead with an ace. After a Trojans timeout, USC got the kill, but followed with a costly miss long. Shaw answered with a kill for a USC set point at 24-22, but they wasted their first on a service error. Then USC middle Alicia Ogoms pushed one long and it was even at 24-all. With the crowd fully engaged, Muñoz took a transition set from Beals and hammered it down for UW's first set point. With Gabbi Parker serving the late run, Shaw's next shot found the arms of Gil and Muñoz and it fell back on the side of the stunned Trojans, as UW escaped with the 26-24 win. UW held the slim hitting percentage lead, .286 to .276, with three more aces to just one for USC while the Trojans missed six serves.
Washington looked ready to pounce early in the third set, taking an early advantage thanks in part to Muñoz's career-high-tying fifth ace. Gil converted on an overpass and then Strickland made the most of her 5-foot-8 frame for a block of Shaw and a Vansant transition kill made it 9-6 Dawgs. But the lead slowly shrunk due to some sloppy passing and plain bad luck on a few rallies, and USC got even at 12-12. Dunaway started to find her rhythm offensively, earning a pair of kills, but a three-point burst from USC took them to the media timeout leading 15-13. A key point out of the break saw UW miss a few chances but then erase that with a Gil-Nelson block, and then a ball-handling error on USC had UW right back even at 15. With Beals serving the run, Gil put one down and then had a bump set to Muñoz in transition to make it 17-15 and force a USC timeout. Another USC error and a Strickland finish off the block capped a 6-0 run before Beals finally missed serve. But UW had gained control, and a Vansant finish in transition pushed the lead to its largest at 22-17. Nelson brought the crowd to its feet for match point with a big swing that made it 24-19. USC saved the first two chances and McLaughlin called time to settle down his troops. But a long rally on the next point ended with a shot out from Fuller, and the Dawgs celebrated the sweep, 25-21. Dunaway had four kills in the set, hitting .600, and Gil and Vansant each added three, as the Huskies hit .303 for the set while USC was down to .172.
Washington will now head off on the road and local fans will truly get their fist big benefit of the Pac-12 Network, as UW's match at Utah on Oct. 5 and the Oct. 7 match at Colorado will both be televised live.