Washington finished a challenging five-match stretch by losing 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 to sixth-ranked UCLA.
LOS ANGELES — The Washington volleyball team ended the roughest five-match stretch on its schedule with another teeth-grinding loss, 3-1 to sixth-ranked UCLA Sunday at the John Wooden Center.
The 25-18, 25-22, 22-25, 28-26 defeat was fifth-ranked Washington’s fourth in that five-match span, all against Pac-12 foes who are ranked in the top 10.
Washington coach Jim McLaughlin was disappointed by the outcome but encouraged by the uptick in his team’s play after losing the first two sets in a match for the first team this season.
“It’s coming,” McLaughlin said of his players’ ability to win tight matches. “I can feel it. I can see it. We’re going to improve in some areas and make fewer errors. We’re always going to make some errors.
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“It’s the way you’ve got to approach the thing, and I liked it better today.”
The Huskies (17-4, 8-4 Pac-12) dropped a narrow five-set match to No. 7 USC on Friday, and struggled early against the Bruins (17-4, 9-3) before playing well late.
UW had no answer for UCLA’s Tabi Love in the first set when the 6-foot-5 senior pounded down 10 of her team-high 25 kills. In the second, the Huskies rallied from a 20-16 deficit but wilted when Kylin Munoz served wide at 22-22. UW dropped the last three points.
The Huskies won the third set with a 6-1 finishing run. In the fourth, after leading 7-3 early, three times they served for match point to force a fifth set, but UCLA’s Rachael Kidder (18 kills) responded with a kill each time. At 26-26, an attack error by Munoz and final kill by Love ended it.
UW’s Krista Vansant, fourth in the Pac-12 in kills per set (one spot behind Love), had 25 kills and hit .305 for the match (to Love’s .169). Vansant had nine kills and one error on 13 swings (.615) in the fourth set.
“Offensively, we didn’t find our rhythm fast enough,” McLaughlin said. “That should be a constant from start to finish.”
UW outblocked UCLA 13-8, but the Bruins had 71 digs to UW’s 53. The Huskies committed 11 service errors (to UCLA’s two), many at key times.
“I’m not so much bummed at the errors because we’re very aggressive,” McLaughlin said. “But we get the fire burning and all of a sudden we put it out ourselves. We started to get momentum and we’d miss a serve. I think you’ve got to manage your risks. You’ve got to know the momentum’s in our way. You don’t have to hit a home run.”
McLaughlin views the losses as learning opportunities in preparation for December’s NCAA tournament.
“We’ve got four more weeks of training before the tournament,” he said. “Are we sinking? Are we losing confidence? No. We’re going to keep getting better, fix what we need to fix and we’re going to improve.”