Volleyball Returns To Elite Eight

Dec. 10, 2004

SEATTLE-- The No. 7-seed Washington volleyball team (27-2) defeated No. 10-seed Saint Mary's (25-4) in straight sets this evening in the NCAA Regional Semifinal in front of 4,252 fans at Bank of America Arena. The victory propels Washington to its third-ever Regional Championship and second in a row. The Elite Eight appearance ties Washington's best-ever NCAA postseason run. Game scores were 30-20, 30-20, 30-20.

The Huskies will face No. 15-seed UCLA (21-10) in the Regional Championship tomorrow at 7 p.m. The match will be televised live on CSTV and will air taped delayed on FSN Northwest at 10:30 p.m., Saturday night and Sunday morning at 10:30 a.m.

The Bruins upset No. 2-seed Penn State in semifinal action earlier this evening in four games. Washington faced UCLA twice during the Pac-10 season, defeating the Bruins both times by the score of 3-1.

'I think there is a factor of being familiar with them,' said head coach Jim McLaughlin. 'I think the more familiar you are with things, the better it is for us. That's why we study this stuff but I think they are going to come out play hard. The way you can handle that is to stay on task, stay in the moment, and keep doing the things we've done from day one. We don't need to change anything at this point. We are a good solid team in a lot of areas but so are the Bruins. But we did beat them twice.'

UW held statistical advantages in every category, out hitting the Gaels .396 to .154 and out blocking SMU 10-6.

'We played well colectively from start to finish in a number of areas,' McLaughlin. 'Number one, we passed the ball well and we ran our offense. Courtney (Thompson) mixed it up and kept some pressure on them. Defensively, I thought we put even more pressure on them. We were in good spots at the right times and it was a solid performance.'

Freshman Pac-10 Player of the Year and Pacific Region Freshman of the Year Christal Morrison made her first start for the Huskies since tearing the meniscus in her right knee during practice on Dec. 1 and did not miss a beat. Morrison led all players with 19 kills, while hitting .439.

'It felt good to be back on the court,' said Morrison. 'Being out on the court feels good anytime so coming back tonight was exciting for me. I was really happy to be back out there. My knee feels great. Now I'll just take care of it and do what the trainer says and take it from there.'

Seniors Kaitlin Leck and Sanja Tomasevic anchored the Husky hitting game. Leck finished with 15 kills, hitting .385 while Tomasevic had 14 kills for a .462 hitting percentage, also notching two solo blocks and four block assists.

The only setter on the All Pac-10 Conference team, sophomore Courtney Thompson dished out 46 assists, setting her team to a .396 hitting percentage.

Libero Candace Lee led the defensive attack for the Huskies, logging 21 digs to hold the Gaels to a .154 hitting percentage. Her performance marked her eighth-straight match with over 20 digs.

The Huskies jumped out to the early 7-1 lead in game one, aided in part by three Morrison kills. The Gaels chipped at Washington's lead, pulling to within one point at 9-8. UW surged ahead, building a five-point lead at 19-14 after a Morrison block and kill. The Huskies took their largest lead of the night at 27-17 after a 5-0 run that included two Tomasevic kills. Washington used a Tomasevic and Myhre block and a Leck kill to get to game-point and Leck put the game away at 30-20 with her sixth kill of the night.

Washington out hit Saint Mary's .417 to .129 in the set and was led by Leck and Morrison with six kills apiece. Tomasevic added five kills for UW.

The Huskies led throughout game two, using two 3-0 runs and a 4-0 run to take an early 14-6 lead. Washington pushed its lead to nine points several times and as late as 27-18 to trigger a Gael timeout. Washington brought in serving specialist Ashley Aratani to finish off the game, logging an ace to bring the score to 29-20. The Huskies won the match on a Saint Mary's service error.

Washington out hit Saint Mary's .417 to .289 in game two. Morrison led the Huskies' attack with nine kills.

The Gaels put up a fight to start game three, tying the game at 3-3 on a kill from Cassandra Kolkka. A Husky service error brought the Gaels within one at 6-5, but that was the closest they would come. The Huskies would go on a quick 5-0 run, led by two dominating blocks from Tomasevic. Washington pushed its lead to 10 points at 27-17 with three kills by Morrison and two by Leck. UW closed out the match with kills by Leck and Morrison and a Gael attack error to win 30-20.

Washington out hit the Gaels .486 to .143. Leck had six kills in the set, while Tomasevic added five.

Doors open tomorrow for the Regional Championship at 6 p.m. Tickets will go on sale at 5 p.m. at Bank of America Arena. Saturday's winner will advance to the Final Four in Long Beach, Calif., Dec. 16-18.

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