No. 9 Huskies Strike First In Top-10 Battle With Utes
SEATTLE – Ninth-ranked Washington played rock solid defense and paired that with a powerful offensive attack tonight and that added up to a big 3-0 sweep over No. 7 Utah, 25-21, 25-23, 25-19, at Alaska Airlines Arena. In the first of two matches this week between the top two teams in the Pac-12 standings, the Huskies (9-2) hit .333 and handed the Utes (8-1) their first loss of the season.
"Certainly pleased with the result and the focus from start to finish from our group," said Head Coach Keegan Cook. "Utah's a really good team, just like I thought they were. They were able to weather some very difficult storms that other teams might not have, so I walk away impressed with them and motivated to get another strong performance on Saturday."
Junior setter Ella May Powell was able to work all her hitters into the mix today thanks to strong serve-receive from the back row passers as Shannon Crenshaw and Samantha Drechsel handled 50 of Utah's 53 serves.
Powell then passed out 36 assists 12 apiece going to junior Claire Hoffman and freshman Madi Endsley. Both were efficient at banging over, past, and through the Utah block. Hoffman hit .323 tonight and Endsley hit .455. Drechsel added nine kills and junior Marin Grote hit .600 with seven kills on 10 swings, while Lauren Sanders had five kills on a .300 percentage with a team-high four blocks. Crenshaw's 11 digs led the back row defense.
— Washington Volleyball (@UWVolleyball) February 26, 2021
Cook credited his hitters for taking some good early swings that helped to build momentum. "We stayed committed to that and Ella stayed disciplined and kept delivering them balls in tempo, so it kept running itself," said Cook. "But Utah's a really good serving and blocking team. I don't expect them to miss ten serves again, I expect them to make some blocking adjustments, and we'll have to have some answers on Saturday."
Powell credited her hitters and passers. "I think our outsides really got in good situations," she said. "Utah served tough and got us off the net a lot, so we had to work really hard on getting our hitters up on the net in good situations. They did a really good job hitting their shot even against a good block."
UP NEXT: Utah remains percentage points ahead in the Pac-12 standings as it has played two fewer matches, but Washington can claim first place if it gets another win on Saturday. The teams meet again Saturday at 11 a.m., live streamed once again on GoHuskies.com.
SET 1: Grote grabbed the first point of the match for the Dawgs and an ace from Hoffman got the Huskies an early 4-1 lead. The Utes scored four straight to take their first lead at 5-6 but kills from Endsley and two straight by Hoffman inched the Huskies back in front. After the Utes took back the lead, the Huskies used a timeout at 11-13. UW's first block by Sanders and Endsley got it back within one and then two straight Drechsel kills brought the Huskies back on top, 16-15, forcing a Utah timeout. The pin hitters kept working with sideouts and then Sanders finished and a Grote-Powell block made it 21-18 Dawgs. Utah cut it to two at 23-21 and UW took time. Out of the timeout, Grote put down an overpass for 24-21, and on the next rally, Hoffman bumped a long set to Endsley who stepped inside and spun one between defenders for the kill and the 25-21 win.
SET 2: A handful of service errors dotted the start of the second set, but Hoffman ripped a pair of kills from the left and Sanders finished one as the Huskies went up by two at 8-6. Utah scored three straight to tie it again at 9-9 before missing serve. The teams went back and forth trading points, with kills from all three Husky outsides keeping things moving. A huge block from Grote and Hoffman pushed UW back up 17-15. Hoffman dropped in a short serve ace for 19-16 to force a Utes timeout. But a couple errors from the Huskies and a Utah ace cut it to 21-20 and forced UW into a timeout. Endsley pounded one down out of the beak but UW missed serve. Endsley again converted, and after a Utah sideout, Hoffman killed a Emma Calle set for 24-22. Utah saved the first set point, but after a UW timeout, Powell went to Grote on a slide for the kill and the big win, 25-23. The Huskies hit an impressive .406 in the frame with Endsley converting five of six swings without a miss and Powell setting 14 assists.
SET 3: A 3-0 run by the Huskies on a Grote kill, a Crenshaw ace, and a block by Drechsel and Sanders made it 5-2 in the third. After a UW service error, Endsley sparked another 4-0 run that had kills from Hoffman and Sanders for 9-3. The Huskies built their biggest lead at 13-5 on a strong Calle serving run. Sanders and Endsley roofed one for 18-11 and Powell dumped for her first kill of the match to make it 20-13. Utah made a last push and cut it to within four points at 23-19, but Hoffman ended that run with a right side kill, and then went back to serve and dropped in her third ace to end it, 25-19. The Huskies outhit the Utes, .324 to .182, in the set, with five kills from Hoffman on 13 errorless swings.