Another Dog Fight For Huskies In L.A.
Oct. 28, 2012
LOS ANGELES - The Husky volleyball team once again found itself locked in a high-level battle with a top-10 opponent, rallying from an 0-2 hole to get to the verge of forcing a fifth set against No. 6 UCLA. But the defending NCAA Champion Bruins withstood three set points late in the fourth set and managed to hold off the fifth-ranked Huskies at the John Wooden Center. Sophomore Krista Vansant had a huge night for the second time this year against the Bruins, putting down 25 kills and hitting .305.
Washington (17-4, 8-4 Pac-12) was looking for a season-sweep of the Bruins after winning a five-setter back in Seattle. But UCLA (17-4, 9-3 Pac-12) managed to hold on for the win by a count of 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 in front of 1,055 fans. The Huskies had three shots at winning the fourth set, but none on UCLA's serve. Each set point was killed by UCLA's All-American Rachael Kidder who hit .400 with 18 kills. Tabi Love also had 25 kills for UCLA but the Huskies slowed her down late in the match to a .169 attack percentage.
Kaleigh Nelson added 11 kills at a .360 attack rate, and two key ones late in the fourth earned two of UW's set point chances. Senior Amanda Gil, in her first return to face her former team in Los Angeles, had a match-high eight block assists and hit .429 with six kills. Junior Jenna Orlandini had 23 digs to anchor the back row. UCLA wound up leading in attack percentage, .306 to .280.
"It's coming," said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. "I can feel it, I can see it. I'm just going to challenge them to be so aggressive in life. We're going to make some errors, but we're going to improve in some areas. I liked it better today. We don't have to be perfect, but we make some plays where we're trying to be perfect and then making errors.
The Huskies have had a very tough stretch on their schedule, facing four top-10 teams in the past five matches, three on the road, and UW has been right on the verge of winning all of them. McLaughlin said the team would not be discouraged.
"We're a top-10 team and we're playing a bunch of other top-10 teams. I didn't think we'd go undefeated with this group at the beginning of the season; I thought this group could continually learn and they are doing that. It would be nice to beat everyone 25-0 every time but it doesn't happen. You're playing a ranked UCLA team in their gym, you're going to be in a dog fight. A couple plays went their way. Are we losing confidence? No, we're going to hold strong and keep getting better."
In the first set, the Huskies struggled to get their offense going early on, with UCLA building a 6-2 lead until Vansant got the first kill of the day for UW. Kaleigh Nelson got her first kill off the blockers to make it 5-8 Bruins. Kelcey Dunaway and Nelson then blocked Kidder for the first roof of the night. But consecutive kills by Kidder and Love pushed the lead to 13-8 and forced a Huskies timeout. Kylin Muñoz got her first kill out of the timeout from the left side. UCLA's serve caught the tape and fell over for an ace to make it 16-10. Nelson provide a couple more kills but the Dawgs were unable to get a serving run going and another kill from Love forced UW's second timeout at 19-13 Bruins. Strickland crushed her first kill crosscourt out of the timeout and Muñoz added another. Finally Love missed wide for UW's first back-to-back points since 7-9 to make it 17-21, but UCLA got a key block on the next rally and then rolled to the set win, 25-18. Washington hit well at .250 in the set, with Nelson killing three balls on four swings, but UCLA hit .400 and had three blocks to just one for UW. Love hammered UW for 10 kills in the first set.
Freshman Melanie Wade checked in for the first time this weekend at the start of the second set. A nice rally was ended by Strickland out of the back row to start the second set, then Vansant had a solo rejection of a slide attempt by Zoe Nightingale for 2-0. Gil added a pair of kills to keep UW up one early. Vansant connected on a pipe set for a 6-4 lead but UCLA tied it up with a pair before Strickland hit one off the block and out for a kill and a 7-6 lead. Wade then got her first block of the day with Nelson, rejecting the Love swing. Muñoz put one off the blocker's hands from the left for a 10-9 edge, but UW then made two errors as UCLA moved briefly ahead before Wade tipped one for a kill for 11-all. Vansant rolled one through the blockers to regain the lead for the Dawgs at 13-12. Strickland stepped in for a nice set to Nelson for a kill, then Strickland pounded the block for another kill to reach the media timeout up 15-14. But the Bruins won three in a row out of the media timeout, the last with a block of Vansant, and UW had to call timeout down 15-17. Wade connected out of the break to get the Huskies back within one. But UCLA took the next three to extend out to a four-point edge and the Huskies had to call timeout again down 16-20 with the Bruins on a 6-1 run. A UCLA mistake was followed by a Vansant kill in transition as UW clawed back to 19-20 to force UCLA's first whistle. More great defense led to another Vansant kill on the next rally as the Dawgs tied it at 20. UCLA got the sideout on serve-receive to stop the four-point run, but Muñoz tied it back up on the next point. Another Vansant kill made it 22-all, but Muñoz then missed her next serve, and UCLA blocked Nelson to bring up set point. After a short rally, Kelly Reeves hit the ball through UW's block and down to end the set, 25-22, as UCLA took the final three points to take the 2-0 lead. UCLA again was sharp, hitting .342 in the set while UW hit .269. Vansant had six kills in the set but so did Love.
Facing a 0-2 deficit for the first time this season, the Huskies would not go quietly. Vansant landed her 11th kill in serve-receive to start the third set, and Love answered for UCLA. The longest rally of the match was finally punctuated by another Vansant swing, as UW raised its level further. The run hit four points on another Vansant kill, a UCLA miss and a Muñoz ace off the tape for a 5-1 lead as UCLA took the early timeout. The run continued with Vansant stuffing down an overpass, before Love ended it with a kill for 6-2 UW. Nelson hammered a couple kills to keep UW siding out. Strickland continued her hot hitting with a left side swing for 9-4. Vansant blew up another Beals set for a 12-6 edge, but UW missed two straight serves to keep UCLA in contact. Still, the Huskies continued siding out, as Gil tipped one into the campfire and then Vansant and Gil sent back the quick attack for a 14-7 lead. Love had a couple kills in a row and then Vansant made a costly error, catching the net as she was putting away an easy overpass, and UW called timeout as the lead shrunk to 14-10. Out of the break, the Dawgs moved Vansant to the middle for a swing and a key kill. Gil spanked one down for a 16-11 edge. Washington led, 17-12, but UCLA went on a 3-0 run to force Washington's second timeout. Muñoz rifled one up the line out of the break to stop the run. But UCLA then scored the next three to erase Washington's lead at 18. The Bruins then moved in front with a Reeves kill, before Wade got one down out of the middle to re-knot things. But UCLA quickly took the momentum back again and the Huskies fell down two before Gil and Muñoz blocked Love just when it threatened to get away from the Dawgs. That made it 20-21, and UCLA had a bad set to tie things again at 21-all. Washington then forced a UCLA error to jump back up by one at 22-21 and UCLA called its last timeout. Muñoz missed her serve out of the timeout to even it at 22, but UW got a big break as Orlandini passed one from the back court that went over and fell for a kill. Vansant then followed that with an ace off the tape to get the Huskies to set point, 24-22. After another tough Vansant serve, Gil and Nelson were all over the Kidder swing, roofing it with authority to end the set, 25-22. The Huskies closed the third on a 6-1 run. UW led the hitting totals in the third set, .282 to .211, and got nine big digs from Orlandini.
Another block started things off for the Dawgs in the fourth set, Wade and Muñoz stopping Love. Wade and Vansant put down consecutive kills, and then UCLA couldn't track down a ricochet off a Vansant swing and the Bruins called a quick timeout with the Huskies up 4-1. Wade's tough serving helped the early run. Out of the break, UCLA overpassed Wade's serve again and Vansant spiked it down. Gil and Nelson stuffed another Bruins swing to make it 7-3, but UCLA got on a run to cut it to 7-6 and force UW's first timeout. Vansant put one off the block out of the break to stop the skid, but the Bruins took the next two points to tie it at 8-8. Strickland got the touch for her seventh kill to make it 10-up. The Bruins opened up a two-point lead, with Vansant putting down a couple more kills to keep the Huskies close. Some tough defense led to a Bruins error and UW got back even at 14-all, then the Huskies regained the lead on a Muñoz ace and the next rally was stopped cold by a Gil and Nelson block for a 16-14 lead and UCLA took time. The Bruins got the next point in serve-receive, but Nelson did likewise with a left side kill. Another Kidder kill tied it up at 17, but Nelson answered again from the right side this time to make it 18-17. One of the longest rallies followed two points later and again Nelson pulverized one to keep the slim lead, but UCLA tied it again at 19-all. A Muñoz kill was followed by a Strickland service error for 20-20. Vansant moved back up front and smashed one for UW, but UCLA responded from the middle. Back it went UW's way with a quick Vansant blast. Love tied it at 22-all and then UCLA crept ahead with a Kidder swing that was blocked but landed just out on UCLA's side. The Huskies needed timeout down 22-23. UCLA had a couple swings on the next rally but the Dawgs put up a huge triple block to tie it at 23. Another huge block of Kidder by Gil and Nelson followed and suddenly the Huskies had set point, 24-23. The Bruins went back to Kidder and she got it down this time to save set point. Nelson brought the Husky fans back to their feet with a right side finish for 25-24, but Kidder saved it again on the left. Again UW fed Nelson, and she came through yet again for 26-25 and a third set point try. Kidder killed that one, too, but then rotated out. But Muñoz sent a shot wide on UW's first swing of the next rally, bringing up match point for the Bruins. The Huskies made a poor pass and had to send over a free ball, and UCLA gave it right to Love who crushed it to end the match, 28-26. Washington outhit the Bruins in the fourth set, .298 to .283, and Vansant had a huge frame with nine kills on 13 swings, hitting .615. The Huskies also had 5.5 blocks to just one for UCLA, but UW missed three serves while the Bruins missed none.
The Huskies will try to shake off the hard-fought losses back at home next week, as UW will host Colorado on Friday, Nov. 2, at 6 p.m. and then Utah on Sunday, Nov. 4, at 11 a.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena.