Passing, setting are key as Huskies keep Cougars guessing
#2 Washington def. Washington State 3-0 (25-17, 25-17, 25-17)
It’s hard to block or dig if you can’t guess who the attacker will be.
Washington (9-0, 1-0) kept Washington State (13-1, 0-1) guessing all night, as setters Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals did a masterful job disguising their targets. By comparison, Cougar setter Camryn Irwin was constantly tipping her hand, allowing the Huskies to earn a workmanlike 25-17, 25-17, 25-17 sweep in Bohler Gym.
|1,854 fans packed WSU's Bohler gym to see the undefeated Huskies play the undefeated Cougars|
-photo by Washington State University Athletics
Washington’s usual strengths—passing and serving—were not as sharp as they’d been against nonconference opponents. That, however, gave Nogueras and Beals the chance to show their growing maturity. Nogueras, in particular, rarely tried to do too much with less-than-perfect passes; when out-of-system, she followed the playbook by setting the outside. Payoff was plentiful when either setter found Krista Vansant, whose patient timing allowed her to consistently find holes around and through the WSU block. As the match progressed, the sets quickened, and WSU was consistently late to the pins. Vansant finished with 13 kills on 25 attempts (.440).
Whenever passes were more accurate, UW’s 6-2 duo spread the wealth: 14 sets to Lianna Sybeldon, 16 to Kaleigh Nelson, 17 to Cassie Strickland and 18 to Kylin Muñoz. Strickland struggled, missing the back line by inches on several swings; but neither of the opposites had a single error, as Nelson recorded 9 kills (.562) and Muñoz added 8 (.444).
WSU is a young team, and it looked it. Unlike Nogueras and Beals, Irwin’s sets were slower and more predictable: almost a third went to freshman Kyra Holt (10 kills, 5 errors on 29 attempts, .172) and another quarter went to junior Jaicee Harris (9 kills, 2 errors, 22 swings, .318). Cougar hitters committed 19 hitting errors, 7 on blocks; the Huskies won the blocking battle 7-1, led by Melanie Wade’s one solo block and 5 block assists.
As we mentioned, the Huskies’ serve was not up to its usual standards: just two aces and 10 errors (3 each by Strickland and Jenna Orlandini.) And there were times when UW sent too-easy free balls across the net, a nagging habit that could make a big difference in future matches.
The Huskies now head to Eugene, where they haven’t won since 2009. The Ducks scored a surprisingly easy 3-0 sweep (25-17, 25-18, 25-19) against rival Oregon State in Corvallis last night, relying heavily on Liz Brenner, who got 38% of Lauren Plum’s 92 attempts (15 kills, 3 errors, 35 swings, .343). Oregon outblocked OSU 10-4 and won the hitting battle .413-.173.
- In Berkeley, Stanford rallied past Cal 3-1 (20-25, 25-23, 25-22, 28-26, but it wasn’t easy. Cal was in it all the way, but just barely lost sets 3 and 4. In the clutch, Cal relied on Adrienne Gehan, who responded with 19 kills on 50 swings, but committed 10 errors. Stanford middle Inky Ajanaku was out with an illness; even so, Stanford got 15 blocks.
- At the Galen Center in Los Angeles, USC outlasted UCLA 3-1 (25-23, 25-22, 21-25, 25-16) behind 17 kills (.419) from latest Trojan freshman sensation Ebony Nwanebu (.419). Spokane’s Alexis Olgard (Mead HS) had a big night with 11 kills and just one error on 22 attempts (.545).
- With WSU’s loss, just six Division 1 teams (out of 328) remain undefeated: Washington, Ohio State, North Carolina, Colorado State, Missouri and DePaul.