Volleyball Returns To Final Four

Dec. 10, 2005

COLLEGE STATION, Texas-- The No. 3-seeded Washington volleyball team (30-1) will make its second straight trip to the NCAA Final Four after handing No. 11-seed Wisconsin (26-7) a 3-0 loss Saturday night in the Regional Championship at G. Rollie White Coliseum. Game scores were 30-28, 30-25, 30-23.

The victory gives Washington its 30th win of the season, tying the 1979 squad (30-11) for the second-most wins in program history (1978, 37-8-2). UW is now 18-9 all-time in the NCAA Tournament and 9-3 under the direction of head coach Jim McLaughlin.

The Huskies will face No. 15-seed Tennessee in the national semifinal in San Antonio, Texas on Dec. 15. UT upset No. 2-seed Purdue in the regional semifinal and dispatched of No. 10-seed Missouri in the regional final earlier tonight to advance to the program's first Final Four. No. 1-seed Nebraska and the winner of tonight's match between No. 4-seed Arizona and Santa Clara will play in the other semifinal match. The national championship will take place on Dec. 17.

'It was a hot and cold match,' said McLaughlin. 'We were a little streaky, but we were hot at real important times and kind of held onto this thing. We were fired up for this, but as I told the team in the locker room, we'll prepare for this normally this next week and upgrade and focus on the things we need to improve, make some improvement and go play in the Final Four.'

The Huskies started slow but made adjustments to build momentum through the match like it has done throughout the season.

'We've been pretty good in the later stages of most of the games we've played in,' said McLaughlin. 'I think we step it up. We turn it on and we're very aggressive in tight situations, which is a characteristic of this team. We got some good swings, and we tend to pass well at the end of the games. Courtney (Thompson) had some options.'

Thompson led a balanced offense, dishing 43 assists and distributing the ball evenly between sophomore Christal Morrison and senior Sanja Tomasevic who combined for 34 of Washington's kills. Morrison was named the Regional Most Valuable Player as she led UW with 21 kills. Tomasevic added 17 kills and 13 digs in the victory to earn all-tournament honors, as did Thompson who chipped in 11 digs.

'I sure feel like the luckiest setter in the country having our passers,' said Thompson. 'They passed well all game, and they did it last night. With these hitters, I always have a lot of options. A lot of our hitters were hitting out of rhythm and I was connecting with them, so that was on me but then we started to get it going. There is no panic with this team . We know what we can do, and if it's not going our way, we know eventually it will so we just have to stick to it.'

Washington also received strong play from senior libero Candace Lee, who collected 21 digs, and senior Darla Myhre, who had six blocks.

The Huskies had their second-lowest hitting percentage of the season with a .203 clip but it proved good enough as the UW defense held the Badgers to a .162 hitting percentage. Washington held statistical advantages in kills (56-42), service aces (5-1) and digs (65-64), while Wisconsin had the 13-11.5 advantage in blocks.

Game one opened tight before Washington edged out to the 11-7 lead after three kills and a triple block. Wisconsin battled back to tie the score at 12-12 to trigger a Husky timeout. The score knotted nine more times through 28-28, before Washington used a Morrison kill and a block by Myhre and Tomasevic to close it out 30-28.

Washington hit just .186 in the set, while Wisconsin hit .239. Morrison had 10 of the Huskies' 22 kills in the game, while Lee added eight digs.

Game two was even through 10-10 before a kill by Morrison and two by Tomasevic gave Washington the 13-10 lead, which triggered a Badger timeout. Wisconsin pulled to within one point at 14-13 but would get no closer as the Huskies went on a 6-2 run to push their lead to five at 20-15 and roll to the 30-25 victory.

Washington out-hit Wisconsin .200 to .073 in the game and was led by Tomasevic with six kills.

The Huskies trailed by as many as five points in game three at the 8-3 mark before storming back to knot the score at 10-10. UW used three consecutive kills by Morrison, Tomasevic and Hagerty to take the 13-10 lead and force a Badger timeout. Wisconsin pulled to within one point at 15-14, before Washington scored seven unanswered points, including two Morrison kills and a block, to go up 24-16 and cruise to the 30-23 victory.

The Huskies out-hit Wisconsin .224 to .163 in the set and was led by Morrison and Tomasevic who combined for 13 of Washington's 17 kills.

Washington is the only team remaining from the 2004 Final Four as defending national champion Stanford, Southern California and Minnesota all bowed out of the tournament in the second round.

'(Going to the Final Four) is a lot different (this year), and one of the big things is expectations,' said Thompson. 'Last year we talked so much about, `Lets get to the Final Four. Let's get one step further,' and we reached our big goal. Now we want to take it one step further. We want to win it all. We didn't just want to get there this year. We're going to have a good semifinal match, but we want to be in the championship.'

The semifinal match will mark the first meeting between the Huskies and Lady Vols. Washington is 13-1 against top-25 opponents this season and is 6-0 at neutral sites.

The Huskies swept through the first four rounds of the tournament without dropping a game, joining top-ranked Nebraska as the only unblemished teams remaining. Washington has notched 3-0 victories 26 times this season and has lost just 10 games.

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