Sept. 12, 2009

Courtesy of Washington

TAMPA, Fla. - The third-ranked volleyball squad passed its first test with flying colors today, handling No. 9 Minnesota, 25-21, 25-19, 25-23, in the opening match of the Tampa Twice Tournament. The Huskies had yet to face a ranked opponent this year but rose to the occasion in moving to 7-0 on the year and dropping the Gophers to 6-2.

Washington has swept every opponent it has faced through seven matches, but today figured to be a stern test. Minnesota's only previous loss was a 3-2 decision at the hands of No. 5 Nebraska. The Huskies led throughout nearly all of set one, pulled away in the latter half of the second set, and then overcame a late deficit to finish the sweep. Senior Jill Collymore led the way with 15 kills and a .324 attack percentage, and sophomore Bianca Rowland hit .429 with seven kills. Junior Jenna Hagglund had 23 assists and two-time Defensive Player of the Year Tamari Miyashiro notched 19 digs, as UW outhit UM, .239 to .144 for the match.

"It went well," said head coach Jim McLaughlin. "Of course there's a lot of room for improvement and the team understands that. Right now we have an opportunity to take something away from every match in order to continue this progress. But as long as we are aware and conscientious we will make the progress we need to make."

Washington came out focused and ready, and quickly opened up a 5-1 lead that forced Minnesota to signal for a quick timeout following a solo block from redshirt freshman Kelcey Dunaway. It didn't stop there, however, as the Huskies pushed ahead to a 7-1 lead before the Gophers righted themselves. Seniors Jill Collymore and Airial Salvo combined for five kills in the stretch. Sophomore Bianca Rowland's first put-away had the Huskies up 10-4, matching the largest lead UW would hold. The teams would hold course from there until Minnesota crept within two at 18-16 on consecutive kills by Ariana Filho. But Rowland then got a kill off the Gopher block and followed with a service ace to force Minnesota's second timeout. Minnesota saved a couple set points at 24-19 before junior Becky Perry took a Jenna Hagglund feed and slammed it down for the 25-21 win.
 
Collymore and Rowland provided the bulk of the offense with four kills apiece, and Hagglund supplied eight assists. Washington outhit Minnesota in the opener, .231 to .129.

Early in set two, Washington turned a 2-1 deficit into a 4-2 lead with some strong defense that led to three-straight UM errors. Freshman Jenni Nogueras chalked up an ace for a 7-3 lead, but the Gophers stayed resilient, eventually tying the match on several occasions in the middle of the set, the last one coming at 14-14. Washington grabbed the next three points, taking a 17-14 lead on a kill by Rowland, a bad set from former USC setter Taylor Carico, and an ace from Rowland that resulted in a Minnesota timeout. Dunaway and Salvo had back-to-back kills to edge the Huskies out to a 19-15 advantage. At 20-18, Collymore downed a set from Hagglund, followed by a Minnesota error and another Collymore finish, this time from Perry. Rowland gave UW set point with her second kill of the set, and she then combined with junior Kindra Carlson for UW's first block of the set and sent the Huskies to the break up two sets to none.

Senior Tamari Miyashiro had 10 digs in the second set alone while Collymore rolled to six kills on 13 attempts for a .462 percentage. Washington hit .243 in the set compared to .176 for Minnesota and won despite being outblocked, 4.0-1.0.

Set three would prove to be the toughest yet, although Washington stayed steady on offense, hitting .243 for the second set in a row with identical numbers. Down 3-4, Washington went on a run starting with a Rowland finish that she followed with a block assisted by Carlson. Then came a UM error and a Collymore kill for a 7-4 Husky lead. That margin evaporated quickly, however, as Minnesota won the next three points and the teams traded points back-and-forth all the way to 11-11 when the Dawgs finally took two straight points on a kill by Dunaway and Gopher error to lead 13-11. They still couldn't quite shake Minnesota, and the Gophers inched ahead for the first time late in a set at 15-14. Minnesota led 18-16 thanks to a Brook Dieter kill, but Carlson got the side out for UW with a kill and then Dunaway and Salvo tied the set with a block. The Top-10 teams traded points again up to 20-20, when Collymore struck with consecutive kills, another coming off a rare assist by Perry, and the Gophers called time. Washington got to match point at 24-21, but Collymore misfired and Gibbemeyer got a Gopher kill to pull within one and Coach McLauhglin called his first timeout of the match and the entire season for that matter. Washington set itself for the final play and Carlson took a Nogueras pass and sent it to the floor for a 25-23 win.

Collymore again led the Huskies with five kills in the final set, while Carlson had four on nine attempts and Miyashiro had two aces and five digs. Minnesota was held to a .128 attack percentage, committing eight errors and UW won the battle at net with two blocks to none.

"Jill was good, and the best thing I liked about her play was her passing," McLaughlin said. "She's also made improvements blocking and she took some big time swings. Very aggressive, and I liked her intensity."

Washington will need to be on its game just as well tomorrow evening against No. 4 Florida, which played host-school South Florida tonight after UW's match. The Gators are also undefeated pending tonight's outcome. Saturday's match will have a 3 p.m. Pacific start time.