Dec. 3, 2009

Courtesy of Washington

FORT COLLINS, Colo. - The sixth-seeded Husky volleyball squad was tested early in its NCAA Championships opener, but found its rhythm and pulled away for a 3-1 win over Northern Colorado at Colorado State's Moby Arena. Washington (24-5) moves on to the second round of the championships, where they will play either Colorado State or Middle Tennessee on Friday at 6 p.m. Pacific.

Northern Colorado, the Big Sky Champions, came out hot behind a supportive local crowd, and pulled out the first set, 27-25, but the Huskies righted the ship in the second set, 25-15, then closed out the win with 25-22 and 25-21 scores in the third and fourth frames. Junior Kindra Carlson led all players with 20 kills, as the Eaton, Colorado native had a lot of support from the locals. Junior Becky Perry added 17 kills while hitting .483. Junior Jenna Hagglund notched 54 assists and senior Tamari Miyashiro dug 12 balls. The Dawgs outblocked the Bears, 10-0, and hit .364 on the night compared to .237 for UNC.

Carlson enjoyed playing in front of and against some familiar faces, but thought the Huskies could improve.

"The atmosphere was awesome. Growing up here, it was really cool. We came out and did the stuff we were planning on doing and just attacked their game plan," said Carlson. "We can definitely improve. There were ebbs and flows, it was up and down, for sure."

The Huskies have now advanced into at least the NCAA second round for the past eight years under head coach Jim McLaughlin. Washington went through the state of Colorado to reach its last two Final Fours in 2005 and 2006.

Carlson got the first kill in front of many of her hometown fans. She then teamed up with Rowland for a block. Perry then found the seam with two straight swings for a 4-0 lead, and Carlson and Rowland sent back another UNC attack and the Bears needed the quick timeout. The Bears closed to within 7-4, but senior Jill Collymore fired off back-to-back aces to open it back up. Still, the Huskies struggled to find the mark for a stretch, making four early attack errors. Northern Colorado came all the way back to tie for the first time at 13-13, then took the lead on an ace and a kill by Kenzie Shreeve that led to UW's first timeout. Rowland ended the run with her first kill, then Perry and Rowland tied it back up with a block and a Perry swing off a Miyashiro diving save brought UW back into the lead. The Bears came back with a 3-0 run until Perry got the kill to tie it. Washington was down three late, but a Rowland finish, a UNC misfire and a Barfield finish off an overpass tied it back up and the Bears took time. The Bears claimed the next two points to earn set point, but Carlson saved the first one with a kill, and on the next set point Perry met the attack at net and sent it down on UNC's side. UNC got the sideout and a Carlson kill saved another set point, but the Bears finally converted on their fourth, finishing things at 27-25.

The teams traded sideouts early in the second set, with a tie score on every other point. The first two point edge for either team came when Rowland sent one off the defense and into the crowd for an 11-9 Husky edge. A block from Carlson and Barfield pushed UW's lead to 14-11 and UNC called timeout. The Huskies begun a 4-0 run when Rowland slammed another through the D for a kill, then Perry wound up for a finish and an 18-13 lead. Perry then met Allison Raguse's attack at net and sent it straight back off the Bear for a block and the Bears used their second timeout. The Huskies continued in their groove, taking six of the final seven points to secure the set, 25-15. Washington hit a blazing .562 in the set with 20 kills and just two errors. Perry had seven kills, while Carlson added five and Rowland four, each of them hitting over .600. Hagglund had 18 assists in the second set alone.

"We got better as the match went," said McLaughlin. "We started getting more comfortable with our serves and ultimately played good defense and put the pressure on them. It just took us a while to get in rhythm. More than that, we missed some serves. It just took us a while to settle down a bit."

The Bears grabbed the first point after the break but UW responded with a 3-0 run. Carlson went off the block with a thud for a 7-3 lead, then a ball-handling error on UNC's part forced a Bears timeout. Miyashiro continued her strong serving out of the timeout and the Bears missed wide again before ending the run with a kill. Perry tapped down an overpass for an 11-5 lead. Northern Colorado fought back into the set with a 4-0 run and the Huskies needed their first timeout. Salvo rocketed one down on the next point to snap the string, then Salvo and Barfield rejected the next UNC swing, and Salvo took the next one on herself for yet another rejection and the Dawgs were back up 15-10. It was 18-11 after UNC sailed one long and the Bears used final timeout. The Huskies owned a seven-point lead but Northern Colorado cut into it with three-straight and McLaughlin brought the Dawgs back over the regroup. Washington missed three consecutive serves late to keep UNC alive, but a Salvo finish brought up set point. The Bears saved the first with a kill but Carlson clinched it, 25-22 with a shot off the libero and into the stands. The Dawgs outhit the Bears, .370-.182 in the set

Perry and Rowland rocked the floor with two kills to start the fourth set. Rowland and Hagglund then banged a Bear attack back down, and Carlson aced the Bears for a 5-1 edge. Rowland's fourth kill of the fourth set made it 7-4 UW. Barfield grabbed kills on two of the next three points, and Hagglund found the floor with her first ace for a 10-5 Husky lead. After a timeout, Carlson and Barfield smothered another Bear attack, then UNC missed two more swings to make it 13-5. Washington was up 18-10 when UNC started one final run. They pulled to 19-14 and foced UW's first timeout, then later posted consecutive aces, one that clipped the tape and just fell over, and another that dropped right on the back line to pull within 20-18 and force UW's final timeout. A double-hit on UNC's point snapped the run, but the Bears sided out on the next point. Salvo earned the kill on the next point and Rowland found the hardwood to give the Dawgs match point at 42-21. UNC hit into the net on the next point to finish it off. The Huskies held the Bears to .143 hitting in the fourth set while hitting .278 themselves. Rowland ended up with five kills on eight swings (.625) to lead the way.