Washington Claws Out Of 0-2 Hole To Stop Utes
Nov. 4, 2012
SEATTLE - No free passes exist in the Pac-12 conference, and the eighth-ranked Husky volleyball team was pushed to the limit this afternoon at home against a fired-up Utah squad gunning for an upset. Washington (19-4, 10-4 Pac-12) found itself in an 0-2 hole before walking down the Utes (12-15, 3-11 Pac-12) and staving off the upset bid in five sets.
It was the first 0-2 comeback of the season for the Dawgs and surprisingly, the first at Alaska Airlines Arena in Head Coach Jim McLaughlin's 12-year tenure, during which more often than not the Huskies have not faced 0-2 deficits. The Huskies moved into a tie for third in the Pac-12 race with the 20-25, 17-25, 25-19, 25-20, 15-11 victory. Washington will have a quick turnaround as it heads to the Bay Area for a rare Wednesday-Thursday series, facing California on Wednesday at 7 p.m. live on ESPNU.
"It took us a while to wake up," said McLaughlin. "We did not play well in any phase of the game, but we found a way to win which is a good thing. We'll have to look at our preparation for a morning match, but sometimes you've got to just kick, bite, and do whatever you have to do to find a way to win, and we did. Utah played well and we faced some adversity and didn't back down, so that's the good part."
Despite her worst night of the season in attack percentage, sophomore Krista Vansant still found ways to make a big impact, as she had career-highs in both blocks (8) and digs (17), and had two aces. Her 15 kills still led the way for the Dawgs. Sophomore Kaleigh Nelson warmed up as the match went along and finished with 12 kills on a .233 attack percentage. Senior Amanda Gil was once again a blocking force, with 12 block assists, as UW had 19 team blocks to 14 for Utah, in a battle of the top-two blocking teams in the Pac-12.
Washington had more kills than the Utes, 52 to 47, but Utah outhit the Huskies, .104-.082. Washington's previous season-low for attack percentage was a hundred points higher at .182. Helping the cause was 11 service aces, four by freshman Cassie Strickland, and two each from Melanie Wade, Kylin Muñoz, and Vansant. Wade was the most efficient hitter with five kills and no errors on 11 swings for a .455 clip.
With the early start time, it was a sleepy start for the Huskies, who struggled to pass early and made four attack errors to fall behind big early, 11-3. Washington began charging back quickly with a 5-0 run on Orlandini's serve. Cassie Strickland had a kill, Kaleigh Nelson banged down an overpass, then after an Orlandini ace, Nelson punched another overpass down to cut it to 9-12 and force a Utah timeout. Down 10-14, the Huskies made another run, Strickland and Kylin Muñoz getting transition kills and then Muñoz and Wade stuffing Morgan Odale to tie it up at 14. Washington moved ahead with a Strickland kill before Utah stopped the run. Just when it seemed the Huskies had the momentum, the Utes came back with a huge run on a couple Odale kills and a couple blocks to reclaim a 20-15 lead with the Huskies taking timeout in the midst of it. Strickland stopped the run with a kill, and Washington's block got it back in touch again as Gil roofed two straight shots to cut it to 19-21. But UW then made a service error and Vansant hit out, and the Huskies shanked a pass on set point to drop the set, 20-25. The Huskies hit just .078 in the first set, with Utah not much better at .114. Utah had three aces to help make the difference. Strickland was UW's best option offensively with five kill on a .400 attack percentage.
Early in the second set, the Huskies looked to have shaken off the first set disappointment, as they jumped out to an 8-3 lead. Vansant had a kill and then Gil posted consecutive blocks, one with Vansant and another with Nelson. But just when it seemed UW had regained control, Utah went on a 5-0 run to tie it back up at 9-9, and then took the lead before Nelson put one away. The Huskies then got a couple more stuffs, one by Wade and Muñoz, and another from Wade and Strickland, to retake a 13-10 lead. Wade hit one quick in the middle for 14-12, but after that point it went awry quickly for UW again as they simply could not put the ball away, and continued to spray the ball out or into Utah's block. Utah ran off six points in a row, four coming on UW errors, to take a 20-14 lead. Washington did not have a kill over the final 16 points of the set as Utah closed it out, 25-17. Washington was well into the negatives on offense, with six kills and 12 errors for a -.158 attack percentage.
An early four point run had the Huskies up 4-1 to start the third set, with a Vansant ace and a Vansant kill paving the way. Wade and Nelson teamed up for a stuff of Erin Redd for a 6-4 advantage, but the Utes blocked Vansant to tie it up at 8-8. A kill from Gabbi Parker put UW back up one, but the Huskies aided the Utes with a pair of errors to tie it at 12. Washington answered with a Vansant kill, a Muñoz ace, and then a Gil kill on the Utah overpass for 15-12 at the media timeout. The Utes trimmed the lead to one again, but the Huskies got the serve back on a Vansant finish, and then Wade tossed in an ace. On the next rally, Muñoz and Gil rejected Odale for an 18-14 edge, forcing another Utah timeout. The run kept going on the Wade serve, with another Vansant finish and a second ace from Wade. Muñoz put away a Beals set before UW finally made an error to stop the streak. Utah then staged another rally with a couple blocks in a row to make it 21-17 and force a UW timeout. Gil and Vansant responded in kind with a block of their own, and then Gil put down an overpass for 23-17 and another Utah whistle. Vansant got the Dawgs to set point at 24-19, and then Gil and Nelson ended it with a block of Shelby Dalton to end it, 25-19. Washington still wasn't on fire offensively, but it upgraded to a .171 mark for the set, while holding Utah to just .061. Vansant had six kills in the frame.
A Vansant ace and a Nelson right side blow put UW on top early in the fourth set. Utah tied it at 5-5 but the Huskies came back with a four-point run for a 9-5 edge. Muñoz had two straight kills in the push. Strickland rocketed an ace for an 11-7 lead, but the Utes came back with five of the next six points to level things at 12-12. Beals set Vansant for a kill to regain the lead, and then another well-timed ace from Muñoz was followed by an unassisted Gil finish for 15-12 and a Utah timeout. Gil and Vansant then stuffed a Chelsey Schofield swing out of the break before Odale stopped the run with a finish. Parker checked in for Strickland for blocking purposes and immediately teamed with Gil for a rejection on the weak side and an 18-14 lead. Nelson landed a pair of kills late to keep UW pushing towards the end. Another kill by Muñoz got the Huskies to set point at 24-19, and after Utah saved one, it sent a serve wide to end it, 25-20, and take things to the fifth. Utah outhit the Huskies, .147 to .139 in the set, but the Dawgs had three aces to none for Utah, and the Utes also missed three serves. Nelson came away with five kills on eight swings in the set, hitting .500.
In the fifth set, a kill from Vansant and a rejection by Gil and Nelson got UW off to a 2-1 lead. Vansant and Nelson then landed kills to keep UW siding out with a small advantage. Wade rifled a swing down from the middle for a 6-4 edge, and then Strickland stepped up and drilled two straight dive bomb serves right past the Utes and to the back line for aces to put the Dawgs up 8-4 as the teams swapped sides. Out of the a media timeout, Strickland dug a huge swing over above the net, and Utah's Erin Redd went up to smash it down, but Vansant had other ideas and returned it right back to Utah's side for a huge block. On the next Strickland serve, she spun one with heat and extra movement for another ace off the defense and Utah took timeout at 10-4. Vansant won a joust at the net for a 12-6 lead and another Utah timeout. Muñoz put one down from the right and then fired off an ace to bring the Huskies a handful of match points at 14-7. But Utah started to make the crowd nervous, saving the first three match points to force a Husky timeout at 14-10. Utah saved one more but at 14-11, Nelson cut a sharp angle to the sideline and it found the line for the final point. The Huskies hit .278 in the final set, helped by the four aces, three from Strickland, and adding a couple more key blocks.