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Elite Huskies Mount Huge Comeback To Advance

Apr 18, 2021


CHI Health Center Omaha Arena | Omaha, Neb.

(6) WASHINGTON/(11) Louisville winner vs. (3) Minnesota/Pittsburgh winner
9 am PT  |  ESPN2  |  Live Stats

OMAHA, Neb. – Call it the Boga Match. In one of the greatest comebacks in Husky history, Washington Volleyball picked itself up off the canvas and powered back from six points down in the fifth set behind a seven-point serving run by senior Maria Bogomolova to stun the Louisville Cardinals, 15-13, in the final set and advance to the Elite Eight of the 2020 NCAA Championships.
The sixth-seeded Huskies (19-3) were on the verge of being eliminated in the Sweet 16 by the 11th-seeded ACC Champion Cardinals (15-3), falling quickly into a six-point fifth set deficit at 1-7. The Dawgs still trailed by six at 5-11, but a valiant serving run from the fifth-year senior, aided by some fantastic team defense and several clutch kills by junior Claire Hoffman, put the Huskies back into the lead at 12-11.
Louisville answered back with two points to go up, 12-13, but the Dawgs got a kill followed by a block, both by Marin Grote, for match point, and the Cardinals then hit wide on the next play and Washington piled onto the court with the 25-23, 21-25, 21-25, 25-14, 15-13 win.
Now the Huskies will have to rest, recover, and reboot as their chance at a spot in the Final Four is coming quickly on Monday morning. The Huskies will take on Pittsburgh, which upset No. 3-seed Minnesota in another five-setter that preceded UW's match. The Huskies and Panthers will move from the Convention Center into the Arena for tomorrow's match that begins at 9 a.m. Pacific time/11 a.m. local time, and will air live on ESPN2.

It will be Washington's 12th Elite Eight appearance in school history, and the fourth in six years under Head Coach Keegan Cook. But the comeback needed to reach this one was as incredible as any Coach Cook could remember.
"That's up there, if not number one," said Cook. "A combination of the moment and what it took and the quality of the opponent. Just really proud of our team and our leadership from our older players in that moment. But I told them that was not our moment of the tournament. This turnaround is brutal. We're going to turn around and play Pittsburgh in I don't know how many hours, but we've got an opportunity to get our program back to where we want to be, so I don't want to miss that moment tomorrow."
The Huskies came out sharp offensively and pulled out a well-played first set by two points. But for the next two sets, the Cardinals stymied the Husky attack and won consecutive 25-21 sets. Needing to win the next two sets or see their season end, the Pac-12 Champions responded with an emphatic 25-14 win in the fourth set, but then lost all that momentum as the first five points of the abbreviated fifth set went to Louisville.
But Washington, with five wins in fifth sets to its credit, including one in the second round on Thursday, showed its resiliency again. And Bogomolova, the one senior not planning to return in the fall, was the key to making the comeback happen.

"Maria's a fifth year senior who loves this program with all of herself," said Cook. "She's unconditionally committed, no matter what role is asked of her. She loves her teammates. That moment right there was just a really clear expression of who Maria is every day. She's in Alaska Airlines Arena serving an awful lot of hours, and she gave everything she had for her team and I just wanted her to know that as she came off the floor for what could have been the last time in her career. Thankfully not."

In the final stats, the Huskies wound up outhitting the Cardinals, .203 to .191, and had 65 kills compared to 58 for Louisville. The Dawgs out-dug their opponents, 72 to 60, and had eight aces compared to five for Louisville. The Cardinals were the top blocking team in the NCAA this season but finished with just two more than UW, 15.0 to 13.0.
Claire Hoffman led the Dawgs with 20 kills on a .318 attack percentage, and she had three kills in the fifth that were instrumental in the comeback. She added 11 digs and two aces with three blocks. Ella May Powell had a double-double as well with 45 assists and 16 digs and was credited with six kills. Samantha Drechsel had 13 kills and Madi Endsley added 11.
Marin Grote and Lauren Sanders were big on the block. Sanders had seven stuff and Grote added five including the crucial one for match point in the fifth. Grote also had eight kills and hit .438 and Sanders had seven kills, hitting .214. Shannon Crenshaw had another strong effort at libero with 19 digs.
UP NEXT: Washington seeks its fifth Final Four in program history tomorrow morning at 9 a.m. Pacific time/11 a.m. local, live on ESPN2.