No. 5-ranked UW stopped a two-match losing streak with a straight-sets victory at home over Cal.
The No. 5 Washington volleyball team made quick work of California on Sunday, stopping a two-match skid with a straight-sets victory (25-23, 25-15, 25-15) at Alaska Airlines Arena.
The Huskies (17-2, 8-2 Pac-12) put Friday’s 3-2 loss to No. 2 Stanford out of their minds, a feat coach Jim McLaughlin knew wouldn’t be easy.
“It has that residual effect,” McLaughlin said of the Stanford loss. “I was thinking about it, and I was worried the girls would be thinking about it, (but) they came out and played hard.”
Following the Stanford loss, McLaughlin lamented UW’s inability to close out sets. Sure enough, in the first set against Cal (10-10, 4-6 Pac-12), the Huskies built a 17-10 lead, only to squander it and let the Bears come back to tie it at 23.
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A timeout allowed the Huskies to collect themselves, and they took the next two points and the set. Jenni Nogueras set up outside hitter Kaleigh Nelson for the set-winning kill.
Nelson said that point was all about having confidence.
“I trusted Jenni and I trusted my shot,” she said. “You have to keep your composure that you’re going to hit the ball in.”
The response to adversity in Sunday’s first set is something McLaughlin hopes UW can retain moving forward.
“The history of this team so far is that when we’ve been in tough situations, we respond,” McLaughlin said. “Those are lessons you have to learn at some point to make a deep, deep run if we want to do it in the tournament.”
Perhaps the dramatic finish in the first set was exactly what UW needed — it won the next two sets handily.
In the second set, Nelson and freshman middle blocker Melanie Wade led with attack percentages of .571 and .500, respectively.
The third set mimicked the second, as UW won by the same 25-15 score. Wade had back-to-back aces for the Huskies’ 18th and 19th points of the set, giving them a 19-11 lead that they wouldn’t relinquish.
Wade made the first two starts of her career this weekend against Stanford and California, and she has started to feel more at ease in the role.
She finished Sunday’s match with six kills, seven block assists and a .545 kill percentage.
“As you’re in there more, you get more comfortable,” Wade said. “It’s good to have a little bit of nerves every time.”
Washington will close out the first half of its conference schedule next week in Los Angeles with big tests at No. 6 UCLA and No. 7 USC.