The only bummer for the Washington volleyball team was that more people couldn’t be at Alaska Airlines Arena on Thursday night to watch.
The No. 9 Huskies (9-2) aced their biggest test of the season, sweeping No. 7 Utah 25-21, 25-23, 25-19, handing the Utes their first loss of the season.
“I’m certainly pleased with result and the focus of the group from start to finish,” Washington coach Keegan Cook said. “We would have liked to have had 5,000 people here to watch what was high-level volleyball.”
The crowd of about 50 (family members of players and coaches) watched one great point after another in the top-10 matchup that featured the top two teams in the Pac-12 standings.
But the Huskies made fewer mistakes in the first two sets, both hotly contested, before dominating the final set.
“We were all fired up to play them, because we know they are a good team,” said UW junior setter Ella May Powell, who had 36 assists and consistently put the team’s hitters in good spots.
Washington won’t get to celebrate long, not with the rematch with the Utes (8-1) coming Saturday at 11 a.m. The Huskies could take the conference lead with a victory.
“I know they are going to come back with some firepower,” Powell said.
The first set was a back-and-forth affair. Utah led 14-11, but the Huskies took control from there, taking the lead for good at 18-17.
The set ended on freshman Madi Endsley’s kill after it looked like Utah had control of the point.
The big stat in the first set was Utah’s four service errors to one for Washington.
The second game was taut and tightly contested from the beginning. After Utah spoiled UW’s first game point, making it 24-23, Cook called a timeout.
Cook said he didn’t say anything out of the ordinary, but whatever he said worked.
The Huskies, after making a couple good saves to extend the point, closed out the set on Marin Grote’s kill.
Washington took a 9-3 lead in the final set and Utah never got closer than four points the rest of the way.
Claire Hoffman, who had a team-high tying 12 kills for UW, had her match-high third ace on match point.
Endsley also had 12 kills for UW, and a .400 hitting percentage. Grote had seven kills and a great .600 hitting percentage.
But what most impressed the Husky coach was the team’s defense.
“I thought it was a really strong defensive effort, and that was the first thing that stood out to me,” Cook said. “I thought we had defenders flying around all night. … Whenever we are playing backcourt defense with that intensity, we give ourselves a really good chance to be great. That is what felt different tonight — the defensive intensity.”
He knows the Huskies will likely need to be great again to win Saturday.
“Utah is a really good team, just like I thought they were,” Cook said. “I walk away impressed with (Utah) and really motivated to have another strong performance Saturday.”