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Washington proves too much for struggling California in four-set win

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Washington proves too much for struggling California in four-set win

Washington celebrates after scoring a point during its game against Cal at Alaska Airlines Arena on Oct. 22. The Huskies defeated the Bears in four sets to extend their winning streak to seven matches.

It wasn’t a flawless performance for the Washington women’s volleyball team, but it was certainly enough to get its seventh consecutive win.

The Huskies worked around a dropped second set to defeat the Bears in four sets (25-23, 20-25, 25-12, 25-23) to keep pace at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Stanford and UCLA are also tied atop the standings with UW.

Unlike the Huskies (14-3, 7-2 Pac-12), the Bears (7-13, 0-9 Pac-12) are stuck at the bottom of the conference standings after losing nine consecutive games and have yet to win a Pac-12 contest.

The Huskies have consistently struggled in their first sets, losing six consecutive first sets at one point in the season. However, Washington was able to get a first-set win today to take the opening set for the second match in a row.

Throughout the first set, the Huskies and the Bears consistently traded points with each other up until the score was tied at 23-23. Senior Samantha Drechsel then stepped up to the plate and finished the set with two consecutive kills.

“[Drechsel’s] biggest leadership contribution is just the load that she has to carry on the court,” head coach Keegan Cook said. “Her best contributions are being a great competitor and contributing at so many phases. That’s a lot to ask for anyone.”

The second set told a different story for the Huskies. California came out strong and ended the set with a 25-20 victory. With the highest hitting percentage they had in the past five games, the Bears were able to win a set after failing to do so in the past four matches. 

But once again, the Huskies came back stronger than ever. Combining for 11 kills, Drechsel and junior Claire Hoffman put the team on their backs to dominate the third set. Hitting .533 in the set, Washington gave California too many problems, winning 25-12.

“We’ve done pretty good at responding in the third set this year,” Cook said. “We made some adjustments tactically but mostly just committed to making some plays at the neck and behind it.” 

Remaining calm and collected, the Huskies then ended the match with a narrow 25-23 win in the fourth and final set.

Hoffman and Drechsel created an offensive barrage combining for 33 kills and hitting .405 and .517, respectively. It was no surprise that junior Ella May Powell also contributed to the win, getting 46 assists and 13 digs. Serving proved to be a problem for the Huskies though, getting six aces but also hitting 11 serving errors.

“Have to give some credit to [California] for executing offensively for long stretches,” Cook said. “They challenged the team to be better defensively in the third set and I was really excited about what I saw from our team, just showing a glimpse of what we’re capable of.”

With the Huskies hitting the midpoint of the season, their growth is apparent and their ceiling looks to be a deep run in the NCAA Tournament, much like their Final Four appearance during the spring.

“Our challenge is on the defensive side of the ball,” Cook said. “We’re not a complete package yet but, when we get there, it’s going to be exciting to watch.”

Washington faces Stanford on Sunday, Oct. 24 at 12 p.m., as the teams battle for the top spot of the conference standings.

Reach reporter Spencer Smith at Twitter: @spencerssmith24

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