After the No. 11 Washington volleyball team cruised to an easy win in the opening set against Oregon State on Saturday, the Huskies were tested again and again in the second set.
It was just one set, but it felt like the match depended on it. If Oregon State won, it would suddenly be a wide-open match.
But the Huskies didn’t lose that set, converting on their third game point, and not long after Washington was celebrating a 25-18, 27-25, 25-17 win at Alaska Airlines Arena.
“I was happy with how we finished off that match, particularly from a discipline standpoint,” UW coach Keegan Cook said. “The first two sets, I thought we were pretty undisciplined on the offensive side of the ball. In that last set, we put it all together and hit our shots the way we are supposed to.”
The Huskies (5-1) did what they were supposed to against an Oregon State (1-5) team that had just nine players in uniform. The weekend sweep against the Beavers gives Washington five consecutive wins since its season-opening loss against Arizona State.
The Huskies are a half-game behind first-place Utah — the preseason Pac-12 favorite — in the conference standings. Not that Cook is worried about the standings. At least not yet.
“We have 22 matches, and we’ve played six,” Cook said. “We are a long way from the finish line. It seems really competitive at the top of the conference.”
The Huskies were ready from the start, winning the first five points of the match with Ella May Powell serving, and the final two points of the game-opening run were aces.
The Huskies were never seriously threatened in the first game, but the second game was not nearly as easy.
Oregon State led early before UW senior Samantha Drechsel had three straight aces to give the Huskies an 8-6 lead. But the Beavers did not wilt, and the score was tied at 23 when UW called its first timeout of the game.
“You have to create on the defensive side of the ball to win,” Cook said about what he told his team. “When you are in a tight set like that you can’t just go all offense, you’ve got to create one more opportunity to score on the defensive end. We were looking for one person to nail their blocking assignment, one more person to dig a ball in order to give us good swings.”
The Huskies won the first point after the timeout but could not convert game point. They also couldn’t convert the next one, but the third chance proved the charm for UW when Aliyah McDonald’s kill attempt sailed long.
“I’m glad that we could go to a shootout and come out on top,” Cook said.
It seemed a tall order for Oregon State to regroup in the third game after such a tough loss, and indeed the Huskies dominated, finishing the match on Powell’s ace.
The Huskies got big matches from outside hitters Drechsel, freshman Madi Endsley and junior Claire Hoffman. Hoffman and Endsley each had 14 kills, and outstanding hitting percentages of .609 and .458, respectively. Drechsel had 12 kills and a .417 hitting percentage.
“We’ve been working on our discipline and being able to string a lot points in a row,” Drechsel said. “I think we’ve been able to get better at that.”
Cook took note of Hoffman, a player he said “we don’t talk about all the time.”
“What a match by her,” Cook said. “You don’t hit .609 as an outside hitter unless you’ve got discipline.”
The Huskies have a pair of matches at No. 18 UCLA (4-2) next weekend, then play twice at Colorado (3-0) before returning home to play Utah on Feb. 25 and Feb. 27.