Dawgs Keep Dancing With Thrilling 3-2 Win
Dec. 1, 2012
SEATTLE - In a 2012 season full of heart stopping comebacks and indelible moments, the Husky volleyball team kept its season alive with yet another thriller, coming back to defeat Hawaii, 3-2, at Alaska Airlines Arena and advance to the NCAA round of 16. The Rainbow Wahine (27-3) pushed the Huskies (25-6) to the brink, holding match point in the fourth set, but Washington found a way to survive, taking the match 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 27-25, 15-11 in front of 3,709 fans.
The Huskies now move on to the Omaha Regional, where they will face the fourth-seeded Nebraska Cornhuskers on the partisan CenturyLink Center court on Friday, Dec. 7. Fifth-seeded Oregon and 12th-seeded BYU make up the other half of the Regional, which will send one team on to the Final Four in Louisville in two weeks time. Washington and Nebraska last met here in Seattle in 2010, also in the round of 16, with UW getting the win that night, setting the stage for an exciting rematch.
The rematch nearly did not materialize, as Hawaii, ranked eighth in the most recent coaches poll but unseeded in the tournament to the surprise of many, held match point in the fourth set, at 25-24. And Hawaii junior Emily Hartong, who hammered away all night for a match-high 30 kills, had a swing on that point, but her shot met the outstretched arms of NCAA blocks leader senior Amanda Gil, who sent it back down to keep the Huskies alive. Washington took the next two points to win the fourth set, then made a decisive run halfway through the fifth set to seal the comeback.
It is the fourth time this season that the determined Dawgs have been down a match point, and yet come back to win the match. Previously they were down match points at home to UCLA, and on the road at Cal, coming back to win both, and memorably the Huskies saved 14 match points at home to Oregon to battle back and win. Hawaii had a 19-match win streak snapped tonight, as they went undefeated through conference play.
Head Coach Jim McLaughlin, who has now led UW to the Sweet-16 seven times in the last 10 years, summed it up as "a dog fight between two top-10 teams. We have been in some fights, certainly we have had some highs and some lows, but it has really strengthened us for conditions like this. I was proud of how we responded ... we were not playing well in game three, and these guys didn't quit. They kept fighting, and counted on each other in the toughest situations.
"It's a huge win for our program," McLaughlin continued. "Hawaii is big time, and they've been big time for many years. It's too bad they didn't get to host, but it's a good win to get us the right momentum in this tournament."
The Huskies pulled it out with one of their most well-rounded nights of the year. Sophomore Krista Vansant looked close to her old self tonight, coming back from a sprained ankle, as she had 16 kills and hit .297 while adding 10 digs. Freshman Cassie Strickland came up huge with a double-double (13 kills, 14 digs) and senior Kylin Muñoz notched 15 kills and nine big blocks, with sophomore Kaleigh Nelson adding 11 kills.
Gil had eight blocks, including the critical one down match point. Katy Beals had 29 assists and Jenni Nogueras had 23 more, while Jenna Orlandini led with 16 digs and served several key Husky runs tonight. Hartong's 30 kills for Hawaii were backed up by 20 kills for Jane Croson.
Washington, the No. 13 seed in the tourney, ended up outhitting the Rainbow Wahine, .268 to .260. Hawaii had the digs edge, 74-56, but Washington had 17.0 blocks to just 5.0 for the Big West Champions.
Dave Shoji, the legendary coach of Hawaii in his 38th season, said he'd never been more proud of a team in defeat than he was tonight. "They played their hearts out, we had a swing for the match, and got blocked. But it was fun, our kids were playing at a really high level, but in the end Washington made the plays and we didn't, so it's very disappointing." Shoji added that it was loudest he'd ever heard an arena away from Hawaii's home, which perennially leads the NCAA in attendance.
Muñoz started the match off with a kill, but Hartong had five kills on Hawaii's first six points to keep it close early. Vansant put one down and Gil had a solo stuff, followed by a Strickland swing for a 9-6 lead. But on the next rally, Nelson missed long in transition and instead of a four-point lead, the `Bows rallied to take a 10-9 lead on consecutive Ashley Kastl kills. Hawaii missed serve, but then had a kill and a block of Strickland to force a UW timeout. Washington's passing lagged and Hawaii was putting away nearly every swing it took, as the run continued to yet another UW timeout, down 10-16. A bad set by Hawaii stopped what had been a 10-1 run. A Vansant kill for 13-19 was UW's first kill since Strickland made it 9-6, a stretch of 16 points. A late 3-0 Husky run cut it down to 17-21, as Gil and Strickland teamed up for a block of Kastl, but Washington would not get closer than four points the rest of the way, as Hawaii took the set, 25-20. Hartong's numbers were sensational, as the 6-2 outside hitter had 11 kills without an error on 14 swings to hit .786 in the first set, while Vansant had five kills and hit .444 for UW.
Hawaii took an early lead in the second set, but Washington lit a spark in the crowd with a 6-0 run to go from 5-3 down to 9-5 up. Vansant had a few great digs in the run, and Orlandini kept the pressure on serving. Strickland converted a couple big kills off the block in transition, and her third kill in the streak capped it. Wade had a kill after a Hawaii block error, and another Strickland slam made it 12-7. Muñoz and Wade finally got a bead on the red-hot Hartong and blocked her to make it 14-9. Vansant hammered one off the block and down for an 18-13 edge, but then Hawaii took the next two and forced a Huskies timeout. UW missed a connection on the next point, and then Hawaii pulled within one at 18-17. Nogueras went to Strickland on the next rally and she broke through the block again to stop the 4-0 Hawaii run and keep the lead. At 19-18, Muñoz converted from the left and then Hartong sent one long and Hawaii needed time as UW was back up 21-18. Out of the break, Hartong was stood up again by Muñoz and Wade. A swing from Vansant made it 23-20, and then Gil and Muñoz roofed another Hartong swing for set point at 24-20. The final rally was a wild one, with Vansant reaching down to punch up a loose ball at the net, and it popped over and down to end the set, 25-20. The Huskies hit a sizzling .429 for the set while Hawaii was at .250. Strickland had five kills and Vansant had four, both hitting .500, and Vansant added seven key digs.
The Huskies did not pick up their first ace until early in the third set, when Muñoz found the floor for a 4-3 lead. Hawaii came back with an ace and a Croson kill for an 8-5 lead, and Croson had two more on consecutive points for 10-7 Hawaii. But Strickland capped a long rally with a huge swing near mid-crout, and then Muñoz and Wade teamed up to reject Croson. But Washington missed out on a chance to tie it, as Muñoz swung long in transition, and much like the first set, Hawaii made the Dawgs pay for that mistake, as they went to Hartong for two more kills and instead of an even set, Hawaii was back up 13-9 and UW needed timeout. Out of the break, the Huskies made two more errors to fall behind by six. Muñoz started a rally with a kill and then Gil and Nelson stuffed Hawaii's middle, and Vansant followed with another kill to make it 14-17, but the Huskies missed their next serve. Nelson answered with a sideout kill set by Orlandini. Nogueras set Nelson who whipped down a kill from the left and then Strickland made a terrific play, getting a piece of the block, bumping it back to Vansant who set it back to Strickland who came back around and hammered it through the block for 17-19, forcing a Hawaii timeout. But Hartong got a key kill out of the break, and Strickland hit one long soon after and Croson picked the right time to hammer her biggest serve of the night for an ace and a 22-18 lead. UW called timeout, but Muñoz was blocked on the next point, and the UH setter dumped one down for a kill on set point, sealing it, 25-19. The Huskies hit just .146 in the set while Hawaii hit .270 with six kills from Croson.
Starting set four, the Wahine again jumped on top, taking an early 6-2 lead and forcing a Husky timeout. But Washington came out with a kill from Nelson, and then Orlandini found success with some short serves, as Strickland killed in transition after an overpass, then Orlandini aced Hawaii, followed by a UH error and the Huskies were right back even at 7-7, forcing a Hawaii timeout. But that could not stem the Washington run, as Hawaii made three more errors, the last a block put up by Strickland Wade against Kastl to give UW a 10-7 edge. Beals went to Muñoz to end two straight rallies and put the Dawgs up 13-9 as the Huskies were siding out with consistency. Vansant came up with a kill and then a solo stuff for 15-10 and Hawaii called its second timeout. A Nelson finish made it 18-13, but Hawaii stepped up its defense, and made a run. A UH block and a Hartong transition kill forced a Husky timeout at 18-16, but Hawaii pulled out the next two points at well to tie things up at 18. Nelson put one high off the blockers' hands for a kill to snap the five point run, then Croson tied it again. A Hawaii service error was followed by a Wahine attacking error after a tough Beals serve and UW was back up two. The Dawgs got consecutive kills from Vansant and Muñoz to get to set point at 24-21. But Hawaii roared back to save all three set points, and a kill by Hartong suddenly had UW facing match point. On the ensuing rally, Hartong had a swing to win it, but Gil rose up and met her with a huge rejection to save the Huskies. A frantic rally on the next point then ended with a Hawaii miss long and it was back to set point UW. Muñoz walked up to the service line and rolled a serve short off the defense and into the Dawg Pack for an ace and the crowd let loose as UW had forced a fifth set. Muñoz was huge in the set with six kills and just one error on nine swings (.556).
After her great fourth set, Muñoz got the first kill for the Huskies in the fifth. A 3-0 run capped by another Muñoz finish of a Beals set gave the Huskies the 4-3 edge, but Hawaii answered with two Hartong kills, and then Washington responded with two straight blocks, with Gil in on both. Nelson made it 7-6 Huskies with a key swing, and the teams switched sides with UW up 8-7 after a Hawaii service error. After the media timeout, some staunch UW `D' led to a Hawaii error and the Wahine took their first timeout at 9-7 Huskies. Again it was Orlandini serving some crucial points, as her jump float led to a Hawaii error, and then a Strickland finish in transition as Nelson got the assist for an 11-7 lead and the final Hawaii timeout. Croson swung into the arms of Muñoz and Wade for a 13-8 UW advantage, but Hawaii fought back again, taking the next two points to force McLaughlin to call for time. Hartong cut it to 13-11 with another kill, but Muñoz got a touch call on the blockers on the next point for Washington's match point. Strickland served it up, and Hawaii set Hartong once again, but Wade and Muñoz roofed it back down, and Hawaii was called for a lift trying to get the ball back up, as the UW bench emptied and the crowd went off. Washington held Hawaii to just .087 in the fifth set, while the Huskies hit .357 themselves, with three more kills from Muñoz on seven swings, and four big blocks.