FROM PULLMAN - The Cougar volleyball team rebounded from a tough loss to Colorado on Friday by sweeping Utah on Saturday. Washington State put together one of its more complete games to improve to 16-9 (3-9).
The Cougs came out in the first set looking more like the team that went 13-0 in nonconference play than the team that entered the match at 2-8 during conference play; their passing was crisper than it had been in recent weeks and that led to a quick 6-4 lead. Eventually, the Utes began to figure out their offense and this set became a back and forth affair. That is, a back and forth affair that the Cougs won, 27-25.
In the second set, Washington State's offense was still clicking and so was the defense. The Cougs raced out to a 3-1 lead before Utah's tough defense started to kick in. That being said, the WSU defense also stepped up to keep the Utes offense from scoring - as well as bail the Cougs out of some offensive miscues. Utah battled back, and forced the set into extra points, but the Cougs prevailed 26-24.
The third, and final, set saw both teams struggle offensively. Washington State showed some flashes of its offensive woes from previous weeks, but the defense bailed the Cougs out and allowed the offense to make the plays that were necessary to win despite Utah outhitting WSU .162 to .140 in this set. It was through the defense's herculean efforts that the Cougs were able to build a 21-14 lead. Utah took a timeout at that point and it worked ... kind of. The Utes managed to claw their way back into the set (and the match), and WSU's first match point was at 24-19.
After an offensive misfire - that pulled Utah within four - the Cougs captured the final set, 25-20.
This was easily the best defensive effort of the season for Washington State, as the Cougs out-blocked Utah 12 to six. That performance is even more impressive when you consider the fact that Utah is one of the best blocking teams in the conference - they were second in the conference with 2.97 blocks per match heading into Saturday.
It is also important to note that WSU's offense put on one of its best performance since the Nevada match back in September. The Cougs outhit the Utes .226 to .220 for the entire match; but that's not the most impressive part. This was also the best passing I've seen from them since nonconference play. Washington State's offense has come a long way since the losses to Cal and Stanford a couple of weeks ago.
"I think probably reminding our hitters to be aggressive," coach Jen Greeny said postmatch. "You're going to get blocked, you're going to hit the ball out once and a while. Go out and be aggressive, after that happens.
Also, freshmen Kyra Holt is easily one of the top freshmen in the conference (if not the best). She proved that tonight with her 20 kills - she had 19 against Colorado, for a total of 39 this weekend - and her .354 hitting percentage.
The Cougs are back in action on Wednesday at Arizona State (14-9, 3-8) in a match that will be broadcast by Pac-12 Networks at 7:30 p.m. PT.