After defeating fourth-ranked USC 3-1 in front of 4,274 spectators Friday night at Alaska Airlines Arena, can it be said that the 2013 edition of the Washington volleyball team is approaching coach Jim McLaughlin’s expectation of greatness?
“I think so,” said junior outside hitter Krista Vansant, who was sensational on all fronts with 21 kills, 11 digs, six blocks (one solo, five assists) and two aces. “We’re getting close to Jim saying that we’re great. He told us that we’re really good, but we’re getting close to saying great.
“That’s our goal,” Vansant went on. “We played a really good team, and they played well. I think this is the best we played all season, so I think we’re heading in the right direction.”
After winning 25-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17, the third-ranked Huskies (23-1, 15-1 Pac-12) are heading toward their first conference title since 2005, when UW won a national crown. Washington leads its closest Pac-12 pursuers, USC (22-4, 12-3) and Stanford (19-5, 12-3), by two games in the loss column.
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USC’s roster includes two of the Pac-12’s most devastating hitters, senior middle blocker Alexis Olgard and sophomore outside hitter Samantha Bricio.
Bricio was tough, matching Vansant’s 21 kills (hitting .333), but she committed five service errors while recording just one ace. Olgard, an athletic and menacing 6-foot-5 presence, was neutralized by UW’s defense, hitting just .056 (five kills and four errors on 18 swings).
Washington outblocked the Trojans 19-7. Sophomore Lianna Sybeldon had three solo blocks and seven block assists in addition to five kills and no errors. USC committed 29 attack errors along with its 58 kills (hitting .196) compared to UW’s 51 kills on 11 errors (.294).
“Our defense was lights out,” said Vansant, who hit .375, with just three errors on 48 attacks.
Vansant had 10 kills alone in the momentum-shifting third set when UW let an eight-point lead dwindle to two (22-20) before Kylin Munoz closed the set with a solo block and a deep kill to the corner.
Everybody in UW’s court was working hard. Junior outside hitter Kaleigh Nelson delivered 14 kills and hit .367. Cassie Strickland had a team-high 15 digs and produced three UW runs of four points or more with her high-velocity serve. Jenna Orlandini had 14 often-dazzling serves.