One Down As Huskies Win NCAA Opener
Nov. 30, 2012
SEATTLE - The Huskies opened up their 11th-consecutive NCAA tournament with an 11th-consecutive first round victory, knocking off Central Arkansas in straight sets tonight in front of 3,588 fans at Alaska Airlines Arena. The 13th-seeded Huskies (24-6) will now face a talented Hawaii (27-2) team in the second round at home tomorrow at 7 p.m., with the winner heading for Regionals in Omaha.
Washington's size and athleticism was enough to overcome the Southland Conference Champion Sugar Bears, who were making their first ever NCAA tournament appearance. Set scores were 25-13, 25-17, 25-18. The Huskies hit .347 for the night and held Central Arkansas to just .032. The UW block was rolling with 13.0 stuffs with nine from senior Amanda Gil.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin has never lost in the first round at Washington. He was complimentary of the Central Arkansas performance tonight.
"They played hard, they played fast, dug a lot of balls. They won 30 matches this year, so they're a good team. I liked the way they played," said McLaughlin, "and I liked the way we played. I really liked the way we passed, we hit for good numbers, they dug some balls and we didn't lose our composure. We hit good shots when we had to. Of course, we're going to have to play better tomorrow night, but for an opening match in the tournament I liked the way we played."
Sophomore Krista Vansant returned to the starting lineup for the first time since the Nov. 16 Oregon match during which she suffered a sprained ankle. She played about a set and a half before coming out to rest, earning two kills on nine attempts. Senior Kylin Muñoz was efficient with seven kills and just one error on 14 swings (.429), while freshman Cassie Strickland had seven kills of her own to share the team lead and added two aces. Freshman Melanie Wade provided offensive punch with five kills on eight attempts (.625) plus four blocks.
Leading off the first set, things were sweet for the Sugar Bears as they had the first three points and four of the first five to take a 4-1 lead. But a couple blocks got the Huskies revved up, with Gil and Nelson collecting the first and Wade and Strickland the second. Strickland got UW's first kill for a 5-4 lead, and its second a couple points later to make it 7-4 as UW capped off a 6-0 run. Strickland then served UW on another run, with a kill from Muñoz and a block by Wade and Muñoz boosting it to a 12-6 lead. Wade got her first kill with a nice tip over the block and then Gil, the NCAA's leading blocker, rejected two in a row, one with Nelson and one with Strickland, to make it 20-9. Jenna Orlandini served up UW's first ace of the match, and another block from Wade and Strickland brought up set point at 24-12. UCA saved one before Vansant got her first kill of the night to end it, 25-13. The Huskies hit .368 in the first set with six big blocks forcing the Bears to a -.067 percentage.
After going down the first two points again at the start of the second set, UW ran off four points to take the lead. Gil put one down and Vansant served up an ace, then a couple Bears miscues made it 4-2. The Bears came back for a 6-5 lead, but Nelson tied it, then Strickland put the Huskies back in front with a left side finish. Wade had a kill, then Gil and Muñoz teamed for a block, and a Muñoz termination made it 13-8 as UW was on a 4-0 run. Vansant hammered one to the floor to get to the media timeout with a 15-9 advantage. Another Strickland kill had the Huskies up 17-11, but then the Bears had a surge, taking four straight points to cut it to 17-15 as UW took its first timeout. An ace from Strickland popped the lead back up to 20-16, and then Muñoz and Wade rejected Taylor Hammonds. Gabbi Parker subbed in and put away her first swing as UW continued its run out to 23-16. Muñoz had a right side finish to get to set point, and then Gil and Parker ended it with a huge rejection for the 25-17 win. The Huskies hit .286 in the set, with three more blocks and two aces.
The Huskies got on top in the third set with an early kill from Wade, but the teams were even through the first 10 points until back-to-back kills from Strickland earned the Huskies an 8-6 lead. Parker ended a long rally with a kill and then Strickland whipped another ace off the defense for a 12-8 edge that forced a Central Arkansas timeout. A 3-0 run from the Sugar Bears made it 13-11, and then the two teams began trading points one after another, with UW going up by three and UCA cutting it back to two. This back and forth continued for 14 points, until the Huskies finally got consecutive points with a Muñoz kill and a block from Gil and Parker to take a 21-17 lead and force UCA's last timeout. Parker added another after the break, and a Muñoz slam made it 23-18. Gil helped close it out up at the net, as she rejected Jessica Hays along with Parker to bring up match point at 24-18, and then she ended it with another stuff, this one with Nelson, for the 25-18 win. The Huskies hit .393 in the last set, with four kills from Parker and four blocks from Gil aiding the cause.
In the first match of the evening, Hawaii made its case that it should have been seeded after being ranked in the top-10 all season. The Rainbow Wahine swept away Santa Clara in straight sets, 25-20, 25-13, 25-19 led by 22 kills from Jane Croson. Washington and Hawaii last met in the second round here in Seattle two years ago, with the Huskies coming out on top that night.