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No. 5 Dawgs Come Out Hot In Home Opener

Sep 11, 2014

SEATTLE – The Husky volleyball team had a new court to play on but Alaska Airlines Arena still felt like home, as the Dawgs earned their seventh straight win to start the season, defeating Seattle U. in straight sets in their home opener. The volleyball-only Taraflex court made its official match debut and UW impressed the 1,388 fans with some excellent offense to break it in, as the Huskies hit over .500 in every set.

Led by the 18 kills from 2013 National Player of the Year Krista Vansant, the Huskies (7-0) swept the Redhawks (2-5) by a count of 25-20, 25-7, 25-14. Three more Dawgs had seven or more kills and all hit above .500, as middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon hit .700 with 8 kills, and fellow middle Melanie Wade added seven more kills on eight swings without an error for an .875 attack percentage. Kaleigh Nelson finished with seven kills on 12 swings with just one error for a .500 mark, as the Huskies hit .519 overall.

Junior Katy Beals led the offense with 28 assists and played some front row in the third set, picking up a rare kill, while also providing some excellent serving that led to Husky scoring runs. Junior Cassie Strickland’s 13 digs were part of a big team digs edge for the Dawgs, 35 to 18.

“We had good numbers and good swings, didn’t make many errors,” said Head Coach Jim McLaughlin. “But there were little things that we see that we have to improve on. The Pac-12 is so tough and it’s right around the corner, and you can’t put things off, so we have to address it. A couple kids were on the money tonight though, like Tia Scambray, she was very good.”

Scambray, in the freshman’s home debut, posted five kills and a .364 hitting percentage plus six digs in just two sets. Also making their collegiate home debuts tonight were freshmen Crissy Jones (2 kills, 2 digs) and Courtney Schwan (2 kills, 1 assist, 1 block) and redshirt freshman Jade Finau (11 assists, 2 digs).

Vansant opened things up with a kill off the block on the first point of the match. She quickly added a second and two straight Nelson kills had the Huskies out to an early 5-1 lead. But Seattle would keep things tight in the frame, as both teams swapped quick kills as the defenses struggled to keep up. Scambray’s first kill made it 7-3 Dawgs, but Seattle went on a run to close within a point at 11-10, before Vansant put one away and Wade then smacked down an overpass for 13-10 and a Seattle timeout. Out of the break, the teams traded the next eight points until UW got two in a row on Sybeldon and Vansant kills for 18-14. After two for the Redhawks, the Huskies went on a 3-0 run with Vansant and Wade finishing, for 21-16 and the second Seattle timeout. Wade drove a low float off the defense for an ace to get to set point at 24-19. On the second chance, Beals sent a bump set over her head to Scambray for a kill off the block to end it, 25-20. The Huskies hit a sizzling .515 in the first set, with six kills from Vansant and five from Nelson, with Wade adding four on five swings. The Redhawks also had their best offensive showing of the night, hitting .333, but UW doubled up with the digs, 14 to 7.

A Wade transition kill opened the second set, and Nelson followed with two well-placed off-speed shots for 3-0. Beals got a home-net roll for an ace, then Wade hit down an overpass after another tough Beals serve. Seattle hit one out to make it 6-0 Dawgs and the Redhawks called time. Wade had a nice set up for Scambray with a kill up the line for 9-1, and then an ace from Wade pushed the lead to 11-2 and Seattle called its second timeout. Consecutive kills from Sybeldon and Vansant pushed the lead to 15-4, and Vansant tipped for another before a Scambray dig led to a third-straight slam from the senior and a 17-4 lead. Scambray’s serves continued to pressure the Redhawks, and Sybeldon ended a long rally with a tip for a kill for 19-4. Vansant earned her 10th kill pouncing on an overpass from a Strickland serve for make it 23-5. Crissy Jones hit UW to set point and Vansant rolled one more over the block to end it, 25-7. Again the Huskies were on target with a .520 attack rate, with 15 kills and just two errors on 25 swings, while Seattle dropped off to a -.125 mark.

A few lineup adjustments in the third saw Schwan check in for the first time and she teamed with Wade and Nelson for a triple block and an early 3-1 lead. A swing from Vansant built the lead to 10-6. The Huskies let Beals get some time in the front row in the third set, as she played all six rotations. That got Nelson into the serving rotation and she tossed an ace to make it 14-9 and force a Seattle U timeout. But the Redhawks answered with their best run of the day, taking four straight to make it 14-13 before missing a service wide. From there the Huskies pushed away again with a kill from Vansant tight into the block, and a Sybeldon smash off an overpass for 18-13 and another SeattleU. timeout. Beals got her first kill of the season with authority, as she jumped up to punch down another Redhawks overpass off a Schwan serve for 20-13. The excellent serving run from Schwan continued with a couple SeattleU. errors until a SU block finally snapped the 7-0 Husky run. Vansant and Sybeldon had a roof and the Redhawks had a bad set to bring about match point at 24-14. A Strickland jump serve was dug too tight and Vansant leapt up to hammer it back down to end the match, 25-14. Vansant was responsible for seven kills in the third, as UW once again hit above .500 at .524 in the frame.

Washington will have two more matches on tap Friday, starting with a 1 p.m. tilt against UC Davis, and followed by a 7 p.m. match against UNLV. Seattle will be on its home turf in the ConnollyCenter tomorrow to take on UNLV at 1 p.m.