On the precipice of heartbreak, the Washington volleyball dug deep, literally, and pulled out a dramatic 3-2 win over Hawaii on Saturday...
On the precipice of heartbreak, the Washington volleyball dug deep, literally, and pulled out a dramatic 3-2 win over Hawaii on Saturday night in a second-round NCAA tournament and advanced to the sweet 16 for the third time in the past five seasons.
The 13th-seeded Huskies (25-6) had to rally from a 2-1 deficit and survive match point in the fourth set to win 20-25, 25-20, 19-25, 27-25, 15-11 over a talented Hawaii squad ranked No. 8 in the most recent coaches’ poll in front of 3,709 at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Washington moves on to face a familiar nemesis, Nebraska, the tournament’s No. 4 seed, in the opening round of regional play on Friday in Omaha.
Hawaii (27-3) appeared to have Washington on the ropes due to its withering 1-2 punch from Emily Hartong (30 kills, three shy of her career best) and Jane Croson. But UW coach Jim McLaughlin cited a long list of Washington heroes who responded to the challenge — the fourth time this season UW has faced match point but rallied to win.
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Sophomore Krista Vansant, rebounding from a severe ankle sprain to lead the Huskies with 16 kills; Kylin Munoz with 15 kills, six in the pivotal fourth set, and two aces; Cassie Strickland, with 13 momentum-making kills and 14 digs; Jenna Orlandini with 16 often dazzling digs and superb serving.
“It was just a dogfight between two top-10 teams,” said McLaughlin, whose squad was ranked fifth in the coaches’ poll. “We have been in some fights, and certainly we’ve had some highs and some lows, and that has really strengthened us for conditions like this.
“I was proud of how we responded to the conditions. We did not play well in game three, and these guys didn’t quit. They kept fighting and counted on each other in the toughest situations and kind of lifted each other’s level of play.”
What impressed McLaughlin the most?
“I think sometimes in life there are things that go beyond ability, passing and hitting,” he said. “It’s those values that we believe in. There are things beyond ability that allow you to win games. They showed that. There’s a lot more to it than just pass and hit.”
Leading 8-7, the Huskies broke open a back-and-fourth fifth set with a pair of incredible digs by setter Jenni Nogueras and another by Orlandini to repel blistering Hawaii attacks and close out the fifth set on a 7-3 run that finished with a Munoz/Kaleigh Nelson block, giving Munoz a team-high nine block assists for the night.
In UW’s must-win fourth set, the Huskies fell behind 7-3, then went on a 7-0 run fueled by an extended serving streak by Orlandini, her second of the night.
An 18-13 lead dwindled to one point, then two kills by Munoz and another by Vansant put UW up 24-21. The dig-crazy Rainbow Wahine put up four straight points and had match point at 25-24. The Huskies finished it off at 27-25 with three straight points, the final an ace by Munoz, who had six kills on nine swings in the set.
The Huskies fell behind 17-11 in the third set, pulled within two at 19-17 but got only two more points on Hawaii serving errors.