At least one of Krista Vansant’s dreams materialized this weekend.
A day after being swept by Penn State in the NCAA volleyball semifinals at KeyArena, the Washington junior outside hitter was named the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s national player of the year.
Vansant is the first Husky to win the AVCA award. She was presented the trophy at a banquet in downtown Seattle on Friday by Kerri Walsh Jennings, a three-time Olympic gold medalist.
“I was hoping, but you never really know and it’s just a big honor,” Vansant said. “It makes me pretty proud of all of the hard work I’ve put in since I was 8 years old. It’s basically what you dream of your whole life. But I couldn’t do it without my teammates — a good pass or a good set.”
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Vansant’s selection was likely cemented after her performance to advance UW to the Final Four in a thrilling 3-2 comeback win against USC last week. The native Californian had 38 kills and 30 digs in the Elite Eight matchup.
Washington’s Final Four appearance is the program’s first since 2006. Vansant, the Pac-12 player of the year and a first-team All-American, is a key reason for the Huskies’ return to the big stage.
She finished with 511 kills, averaging 4.41 per set with a .320 hitting percentage. The 6-foot-2 Vansant is a six-rotation player who can also pass and possesses a strong serve, collecting a career-high 33 aces this season.
“The icing on the cake is, I’m sure, her performance last week at the regional where she put on a performance for the ages,” Penn State coach Russ Rose said. “I recruited Krista out of high school. She’s a great talent and I’m happy for her.”
Shortly after Wisconsin upset defending champion Texas 3-1 on Thursday to advance to the championship match, the school’s latest celebrity sent a congratulatory tweet.
“Congrats to @BadgerVBall #OnWisconsin,” Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson posted on his account. The message was retweeted 465 times and caught the eye of the Badgers’ volleyball team.
The most-asked question to players since Wisconsin advanced to the Final Four in Seattle was whether they thought Wilson would attend their matches. He did attend Michigan’s opening-round tournament loss to Louisiana State at Alaska Airlines Arena in support of former college teammate Nick Toon’s sister, Molly.
But the Badgers aren’t worried about seeing Wilson on Saturday. The tweet was cool enough.
“It’s great to get a shoutout,” junior outside hitter Ellen Chapman said. “He’s giving us all the support that he can, whether he’s there or if he’s not. That’s all we really need from him. We don’t really need a lot more.”
Wisconsin impressed itself with its defensive game to advance to the title match. Senior libero Annemarie Hickey had 21 of her team’s 72 digs in the 3-1 win against Texas.
But talk was about sophomore backup Taylor Morey’s pancake in the fourth set that kept a rally alive and eventually set up the match-point kill by junior outside hitter Deme Morales.
“That was sick and it was critical and it was huge,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said of Morey, who finished with nine digs.
Hickey was asked what’s different about Wisconsin now compared to being swept twice by Penn State in the regular season.
“We’re just more of a well-oiled machine now (because) we just worked on our defense,” she said.
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or email@example.com.