Huskies Down No. 4 Ducks In An Instant Classic
Nov. 16, 2012
SEATTLE - Head Coach Jim McLaughlin has been a part of many great matches and great wins during his time turning the Huskies into a national championship program. But perhaps no win in his career in volleyball was quite so unbelievable, improbable, and jaw-dropping as tonight's victory over fourth-ranked Oregon at Alaska Airlines Arena. Washington somehow waved away fourteen match points, twelve of them coming in the marathon fifth set, and then won it on UW's first and only match point, a 26-24, 16-25, 21-25, 32-30, 25-23 win in front of 4,136 euphoric fans.
The sixth-ranked Huskies (21-5, 12-5 Pac-12) played Houdini in the fifth set, and while no records are readily available, it's hard to imagine a UW team ever stepping up under pressure for 14 match points, and then winding up with the win. Making the run all the more impressive was that it came without UW's offensive leader, sophomore Krista Vansant, who landed awkwardly and suffered what appears to be a sprained ankle early in the fourth set, and did not return to the match.
"I don't know if I've been a part of a match like that, but it's a match I'll remember and so will (our players). Our crowd was just, I don't know I can't put words to it, they were unbelievable," said McLaughlin. "I've coached a lot of teams, and you get late in a season and it's easy to let things affect you, and easy to pout and not bring the right vibe. Krista goes down, and we actually up the energy level. I just think this teaches us not to hang our heads and keep fighting and we can prevail."
Oregon (22-4, 13-4 Pac-12) had a pair of set points late in the marathon fourth set, but the Huskies raised the drama by saving both and pulling it out, 32-30, on a block by Kaleigh Nelson and Lianna Sybeldon. Little did they know they'd have 12 more to battle through in the fifth set.
The Ducks put the Huskies behind the eight ball again in set five at 14-11. But junior Gabbi Parker, a native of Eugene, Oregon, came through with solid serves under pressure and Nelson and Dunaway earned a block and then Nelson, another Oregonian out of Salem, posted a kill to tie it up at 14-14.
From there the two teams swapped points over and over again, with Oregon getting multiple kills from Alaina Bergsma and Liz Brenner to continually take one-point leads and earn match point chances, and the Huskies responded every single time. A block assist from Cassie Strickland and Sybeldon, a kill from Parker, a block by Dunaway and Kylin Muñoz, another Parker kill, a Strickland kill, a Nelson kill, all kept Washington alive down match point as the intensity never dropped. Sybeldon came around on a slide and finished a set from Nogueras to tie things up at 23-all, then UW finally cashed in a transition chance on the next rally, with Parker getting the put-away to at long last bring UW to a match point of its own at 24-23. After a Strickland serve, the Ducks couldn't finish and Nogueras set one back to Nelson, who despite being well off the net spiked the ball deep and it bounced around and finally fell to end it, 25-23, a regulation set score for the fifth set, and the longest fifth set ever played by the Huskies in the rally scoring era.
Gabbi Parker stepped in for an injured Krista Vansant and had nine kills and a great run of serves in the five-set epic.
The final totals had Kylin Muñoz leading four players with double figure kill totals, as the Monroe native had 17 and hit .342 in the process. Nelson had 14 kills, as did freshman Cassie Strickland, who made just one error to hit .394. Freshman Katy Beals had 34 assists and junior Jenni Nogueras had 33, both season-highs, and Jenna Orlandini had a match-high 23 digs.
Senior Kelcey Dunaway subbed in and provided a great presence at the net, as she had seven block assists with Muñoz adding eight. Parker had nine kills, most in the fourth and fifth sets after she replaced the injured Vansant. Oregon outhit the Huskies overall, .287 to .255, but UW had 19.0 blocks to 6.0 for UO. Bergsma led the Ducks with 31 kills, and Brenner had 22 more on a .410 attack percentage.
Washington will come right back out tomorrow night at 7 p.m. to face Oregon State and UW will honor its four seniors on Senior Night. Kelly Holford, Kylin Muñoz, Amanda Gil, and Kelcey Dunaway will be honored in a pre-match ceremony.