HOUSTON – A fired up and focused Husky squad was on point against seventh-ranked Purdue, picking up steam throughout a 25-21, 25-17, 25-9 victory in the first match of a double-header at the Tiger Classic.
In their first test of the season against a ranked opponent, the Huskies responded, passing crisply, blocking with tenacity, and setting it up well for their hitters to find gaps in the Boilermakers (3-1) defense. After a bit of a slow start in the first set, the Huskies came on late to take the initial frame, and then jumped out to big leads in the second and third and never looked back.
Washington wound up hitting .346 and held Purdue, a NCAA round of 16 team a year ago, to negative numbers at -.012. The Huskies had 37 kills to the 22 of Purdue, and had 13.5 blocks to 2.0 for Purdue. It is the first win for the Huskies against a top-10 opponent away from home since a 2009 win at sixth-ranked UCLA.
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“I liked the way we took the floor,” said headcoach Jim McLaughlin. “I liked the way we maintained our energy level and just the intensity. That’s something we’ve been talking about, our investment in those areas and committing to those things. We played well, put the pressure on them and kept it on them. I still think there are many areas we can upgrade, but it was good to see in our first road match for sure.”
It was an all-around effort for the Dawgs, but sophomore Krista Vansant led the offense with 14 kills on a .320 attack percentage. Senior Kylin Muñoz had seven kills without an error to hit .467, and sophomore Kaleigh Nelson set a new career-best with six kills on 13 swings without an error (.462). Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals split setting duties, with 15 and 13 assists, respectively.
Washington’s block was especially dominant in the third set, and senior Kelcey Dunaway matched her career-high with eight block assists, while five other Huskies had at least three. Jenna Orlandini’s 12 digs were a match high. Washington kept the wraps on Purdue’s Ariel Turner, the reigning Big Ten Player of the Year and a first team All-American, as Turner had six kills but eight errors to hit -.083.
In the first set, the Huskies had four attack errors in the first 12 points, and then would only make five for the rest of the entire match. UW faced a 10-7 deficit in the first set but a 5-1 run helped by some Purdue errors and an ace from Dunaway put the Huskies up 12-11 and forced a Purdue timeout. An ace from Purdue gave them a two-point edge again at 17-15, but Vansant and Nelson had a critical block on the next rally and then Dunaway tied it up with a kill at 17. With Nogueras serving, Vansant and Muñoz terminated the next two rallied to put the Huskies up 19-17 and force the second Purdue timeout. Muñoz had two more clutch kills out of the break to keep the Huskies siding out. Turner then made an error and then senior Amanda Gil and Nelson teamed up to block the Player of the Year, earning set point. Gil again got a stuff, this one with Parker, as UW claimed the set, 25-21, ending it on a 10-4 run. The Huskies outhit Purdue, .189 to .091 in the frame.
Nogueras started the second set off with back-to-back aces, and a Muñoz kill and followed shortly by a stuff from Dunaway and Parker made it 5-1 early for the Dawgs. Another block from Parker and Gil was backed up by a Vansant blast and forced the first Purdue timeout at 10-4. Consecutive finishes from Nelson and Vansant opened the lead up to 12-5. UW continued applying the pressure, with pinpoint passing and dynamic swings from the outside hitters. Muñoz got in on another block with Gil and then banged home the next point for an 18-9 advantage. A 3-0 Purdue run with a couple aces forced the Huskies to take their first timeout, but Muñoz then got the next pass and finished on the right side to get UW rolling again. Gil got her first kill on a quick set from Beals, Vansant racked up two more kills, and then a Dunaway- Muñoz block made it set point at 24-17. On the next rally, Dunaway got a nice pass and freshman Cassie Strickland swooped in on the left to finish for the 25-17 win.
UW hit an incredible .636 in the second set, with 15 kills and just one error on 22 attempts. Vansant had one error on her seven attempts, but all her six other swings ended in kills for a .714 percentage. Muñoz was just as efficient, killing four of five swings for an .800 mark.
Out of the break, UW did not suffer from any sort of letdown. Vansant started things with another kill and then had a bump set to Parker for a finish and a quick 5-1 lead with a pair of Purdue miscues in the mix. Beals connected on the quick with Gil, and then a Purdue error was followed by a Nelson finish. Parker then capped the 4-0 run with an ace off the defense and out for a 10-4 lead and Purdue took time. The Boilermakers got the side out on the next point, but UW caught fire again, starting with another Gil finish from Beals. Orlandini went back to serve and UW rolled off five more points to break it open, 16-5, and force yet another Purdue timeout. The Husky block got rolling in the streak, with Dunaway assisting on two in a row, one with Vansant and one with Nelson. Out of the break, it was a trio of Huskies on the block in the middle, with Vansant, Dunaway, and Nelson all getting credit for standing up the Turner swing. That made it 17-5 and an 11-1 run overall. Washington would post three more stuffs down the stretch, with Dunaway in on all three, as UW had 6.5 blocks total in the third set alone. After doing the work at net, Dunaway went back and ended things at the service line, dialing up back-to-back aces to and the set and match, 25-9. UW hit .318 in the final frame and with all the Husky blocks, Purdue was held to -.185, with five kills versus 10 errors.