Washington volleyball avoids upset, squeaks past Gonzaga in five set match
BOISE, Idaho – One year ago the Huskies were pushed to a fifth set before outlasting Gonzaga during the first weekend of the season, so entering Saturday's meeting, they were not going to overlook the Bulldogs.
History repeated itself Saturday, as No. 4 Washington (2-0) received its first big challenge and had to dig deep to stave off Gonzaga in five sets, 26-24, 27-29, 25-20, 24-26, 15-8. Senior All-American Kaleigh Nelson’s career-best 26 kills were a big part of the difference.
The match was the second of three for UW this weekend at the Northwest Challenge, hosted by Boise State in the Bronco Gym. Washington will have a quick turnaround as it plays BSU later on Saturday afternoon.
Washington had to rally from nine points down in the first set, saving set point before taking its first lead at 25-24 and closing it out. But Gonzaga would not deflate, as slow starts plagued UW in several sets. The second set saw Washington walking down a big deficit and then earning set point late, but Gonzaga saved that one and came back to win. The Huskies improved their hitting percentage in every set, getting up to .344 in a set three win, but Gonzaga came back with another two-point win in set four. Like last year’s 15-9 final set, the Huskies were up to the challenge, hitting .636 in the last frame while Gonzaga hit -.062 and UW closed it out, 15-8.
Nelson zoomed past her previous career-high of 20 kills set last season in a win over Utah. Her 26 kills today came on 42 attempts with just four errors for a .524 hitting percentage. Fellow senior Krista Vansant got in a groove late in the match and wound up with 19 kills on a .350 attack percentage. Lianna Sybeldon had seven kills and eight blocks, while Katy Beals had a team-best 35 assists. Cassie Strickland and Tia Scambray tied for the team lead with nine digs and Scambray added six blocks.
Overall, UW outhit Gonzaga, .302 to .181, but Gonzaga led in aces (5-4) and made less service errors (10 for UW, 5 for Gonzaga). Washington had 15 blocks to 11 for Gonzaga but the Bulldogs outdug UW, 50-42.
WASHINGTON WINS! The Dawgs survive a scare, but take down Zaga in five sets to improve to 2-0. Career high 26 Ks for senior Kaleigh Nelson.— UW Volleyball (@UWVolleyball) August 30, 2014