Former UCLA star Amanda Gil played her first match in three years after battling back from injuries, helping Washington win, 25-19, 25-17, 25-21.
Ragged at times, the Washington volleyball team still displayed enough polish in its season opener that coach Jim McLaughlin could foresee brighter days ahead.
McLaughlin rotated a dozen players in and out of the lineup Friday night as the 14th-ranked Huskies defeated Boise State 3-0 Friday night in front of 1,101 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
On a night senior middle blocker Amanda Gil played her first match in three years and McLaughlin took a long look at three freshmen, the Huskies overcame periodic lapses in passing to defeat the Broncos 25-19, 25-17, 25-21.
“Some good, some not so good,” McLaughlin said when asked his impressions of UW’s opening night. “We blocked 10.5 balls (to zero for Boise State) and we didn’t even block that well.
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“I don’t think we were looking at the right things for the right amount of time and getting to good spots and staying focused on those things,” he said. “But when this team buys into the serve-and-pass game, we’re going to be awful good.”
Sophomore Krista Vansant led Washington with 12 kills and senior Kylin Munoz finished with eight. The 6-foot-6 Gil, a second-team All-American in 2009 at UCLA, recorded one solo block and five block assists.
“It’s such a great feeling to finally be back and playing with the team and being part of this family,” Gil said. “I’m so happy. I couldn’t stop smiling all day.”
Gil, who missed last season after having a knee operation, estimates her ability to move and jump is about 70 to 75 percent of normal. Her biggest challenge? Trusting it,” she said, “leaping off, blocking and side-to-side movement. It’s getting stronger every day.”
The Huskies struggled at times, letting an 8-2 lead in the first set dwindle to 16-15 before Vansant sparked a 7-3 closing run with three kills.
UW, shanking a number of pass attempts, trailed 16-13 in the third set before scoring five straight, then finishing with a 5-2 burst that included two kills by energetic 5-8 freshman outside hitter Cassie Strickland. Strickland had four kills on 16 swings with three high-velocity errors, once sending an errant attack almost into the seats behind the back line.
“I liked the aggressiveness,” McLaughlin said. “I even don’t mind the errors at this point, because we can learn from those errors. The girls made some errors but weren’t afraid to screw the thing up.”
McLaughlin used his two setters, junior Jenni Nogueras (14 assists, two service errors) and freshman Katy Beals (13 assists), in separate sets, then combined them in a 6-2 (two-setter) offense in the third.
“For her first college match, I thought Katy showed great composure,” he said. “Jenni was a little erratic early but came back and settled down. We have a little quarterback controversy, which I always think is a good thing. The cream’s gotta rise, and we’ll see. We could also look into the 6-2.”