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Bajema grabs MVP, Huskies pick up two wins in Omaha

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Bajema 9/14

Kara Bajema spikes the ball last season against Utah. Bajema came away with tournament MVP honors at the Bluejay Invitational this weekend. 

The No. 12 Washington volleyball team picked up two more wins on Saturday as it beat both Nebraska-Omaha and No. 17 Creighton by a final score of 3-1 on the last day of the Bluejay Invitational in Omaha, Neb. Senior outside hitter Kara Bajema led the way with 16 kills in both games on her way to claiming tournament MVP and the Huskies (7-1) continued their strong start to the season.  

Starting the game at 8 a.m. didn’t phase the Dawgs, who came out firing early in Game 1 against the Mavericks (6-4), winning 25-15 and 25-20 in the first two sets respectively to take a commanding lead. Washington closed out the last by winning five of the last six points.  

Facing elimination, Nebraska-Omaha took an early 5-1 lead in set three before going on a seven point run to force a fourth. But the Huskies buckled down, and secured the 25-22 win. Besides leading the team in kills, Bajema also added a game-high four blocks, picked up her 500th dig, and had an ace.    

Nine and a half hours later, Washington was back on the court to face the tournament hosts. And just like in Game 1, the Huskies blitzed the Bluejays (5-3) right from the start, going up 2-0. Consecutive aces by sophomore Claire Hoffman at the beginning and junior Samantha Drechsel near the end led the way for a 25-19 win in set one. A strong defensive effort that held Creighton to just a .083 kill percentage wrapped up a 25-17 win in set two.

The Huskies hit .393 in set three, but the Bluejays staved off a sweep by edging out a 25-22 win before Washington closed the door during the fourth, sealing the win after Creigton outside Erica Costelac’s swing went straight into the block of junior middle Lauren Sanders and sophomore setter Ella May Powell. 

Senior middle Avie Niece pitched in with six blocks, and senior libero Shayne McPhereson added 16 digs to her 19 from Game 1, putting her at 116 on the season. She also notched her first kill of the year. 

Hoffman joined Bajema on the All-Tournament team, due in part to her 16 kills in Game 2. And Powell’s 86 assists on the day were enough to earn her the same accolades as well. 

The Huskies continue their road trip on Thursday, when they match up with No. 9 Wisconsin in Madison.   

Reach Bay Area Correspondent Andy Yamashita at Twitter: @ANYamashita

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