This time, the Huskies couldn’t come all the way back.
Not that the No. 9 Washington volleyball team didn’t try Saturday night, forcing a fifth set after falling behind and saving one match point.
But in the end, No. 25 Washington State escaped with a 25-23, 21-25, 25-20, 15-25, 15-13 win in front of 5,779 at Alaska Airlines, the largest volleyball crowd at UW in five years.
This certainly wasn’t the regular-season ending the Washington volleyball team was hoping for, losing to its rival on Senior night. But the Huskies don’t have long to feel sorry themselves as they have a chance to make even bigger memories in the NCAA tournament that begins this week.
Even though the Huskies didn’t win, it was the kind of match both teams needed to get ready for the NCAA tournament: a top-25 matchup with an intensity that will rival anything they see going forward.
On Wednesday night, the Huskies rallied from two sets down to defeat California, and two weeks ago they rallied from 2-1 down to Utah and saved seven match points before winning. This time the rally fell a few points short.
“We did (show some resilience), giving ourselves a chance in the fifth set, but Washington State played well, and I think we’ve been floating with a moment like this for a couple of weeks now,” said Washington coach Keegan Cook. “We’re disappointed.”
The Huskies (24-6, 15-5 Pac-12) got the crowd into the match with a dominating fourth set. But the momentum didn’t last long as Washington State (23-9, 12-8) led most of the fifth set. UW saved match point at 14-12, but Alexcis Lusby ended the match with a kill.
“Washington is an outstanding team, and I am certainly proud that our squad fought through some adversity and we were able to take it,” Washington State coach Jen Greeny said.
Washington State rallied late to win the first set. The Huskies led 22-17, but WSU scored seven consecutive points to take control. Losing that late lead proved critical.
The Huskies rebounded in a taut second set, but the Cougars rolled in the third set in the back-and-forth match.
Washington, as it has often done, mounted a comeback. But WSU spoiled the Husky script in the end.
The Huskies, who finished second to Stanford in the Pac-12, will undoubtedly host the first and second rounds of the NCAA tournament. The bracket will be announced Sunday. Washington State can count on a tournament bid too.
“We’ try to tell them the stronger the framework, the shorter the sting, which basically means we’ve got to go,” Cook said of the upcoming tournament. “Everyone is zero and zero, and I would rather know these things about the team right now as opposed to a week or two. This was a really painful thing for the group, but it may be the thing that gets us going again.”
Senior Kara Bajema had a match-high 24 kills for Washington.
Magda Jehlarova had 12 kills to lead WSU.
“We have 11 freshmen and to have a match like this against a quality team gives us confidence,” Greeny said.
It gives UW motivation.
“If you’re not motivated after that match, I don’t know,” Cook said. “Unfortunately, sometimes learning requires a painful moment, and then the passion to get things in place comes. That’s what we are banking on.”
It was the final regular-season home match for four UW seniors: libero Shayne McPherson, middle blocker Avie Niece, libero Cailin Onosko and Bajema. They were honored before the game as part of Senior Night festivities.