Krista Vansant promised the experience of a one-sided loss in the Final Four would benefit her in her upcoming senior year.
“I think it will be a big motivation for me next year,” the Pac-12 player of the year said through tears Thursday night following Washington’s 3-0 loss to Penn State at KeyArena. “We just worked really hard all year long for this. I could have played so much better.”
Vansant had seven kills and two errors on 28 attacks for a .179 hitting percentage and a team-high nine digs.
“This is going to be in the back of my head all winter when we’re lifting weights and conditioning. It’s going to be in my head through spring and summer and 6 a.m. workouts. This is what I want. I want to be in that national championship game next year. I’m going to do everything in my power for that to happen.”
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Vansant hoped UW could pull out another big rally as it had done the previous week at USC.
“We showed we had a lot of fight in us toward the end, but it was just too late,” she said. “We were saying the same stuff we were saying at SC (when UW was down 0-2): anything can happen, we can come back from this, keep fighting and go down with no regrets.”
Senior libero Jenna Orlandini acknowledged UW had no answer for all the problems Penn State presented. “We just didn’t respond well to adversity,” she said. “They are a strong team, they are very physical, but at the same time we could have put more pressure on them.”
KeyArena a sellout
Two hours before the opening serve, NCAA officials declared a sellout for the volleyball semifinal round Thursday at KeyArena.
The facility, mainly used for basketball and concerts, was formatted for a 14,975-seat capacity. Defending champion Texas and powerhouse Penn State were in the Final Four field, a strong draw was the hometown Washington team.
“We could not have asked for a better turn out,” said Kristin Fasbender, NCAA associate director of championships and alliances.
It was the third-highest attendance in the tournament’s semifinals history.
• Wisconsin (28-9) might want to ditch hosting matches in Madison and opt for more neutral courts. After Thursday’s semifinal upset against Texas, the Badgers are undefeated at 9-0 on neutral courts this season. They improved to 10-7 against ranked opponents, but the Longhorns were the first seeded opponent they faced in the NCAA tournament.
• Texas (27-3) suffered its first loss since September, a string of 23 matches. It’s also the Longhorns’ first postseason loss after 10 straight wins — a program record. “It felt like it was the first match of the season,” Texas coach Jerritt Elliott said. “We just never got comfortable. When you make (23) hitting errors and have 46 kills, it’s tough to win any match.”
• You can toss out the stat sheet when trying to pinpoint what Wisconsin was doing to secure the win. Outside hitter Deme Morales was stuffed more than a turkey but it was her team’s 72 digs that helped the Badgers win a game filled with ugly numbers on both sides. Wisconsin’s first-set hitting percentage of .167 was its lowest in a win since October. “That’s a massive block,” Wisconsin coach Kelly Sheffield said of Texas’ front line of 6-footers in Khat Bell (6-2), Molly McCage (6-3) and Chiaka Ogbogu (6-1).
Jayda Evans: 206-464-2067 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @JaydaEvans.