SEATTLE – For the first time in the program’s history, the Washington volleyball team (28-2) will play in the sport’s Final Four.
The Huskies advanced to its semifinal match with Pac-10 rival Stanford by defeating UCLA 3-2. It was the Huskies’ third victory against the Bruins this year, and it was the most thrilling of the encounters.
“Wow, what a match,” head coach Jim McLaughlin said in a UW press release. “The Bruins played well and I just felt like we were a little hot and cold. I felt like if we just stayed in this thing, kept grinding it out, it would be a delayed gratification. And it finally came.”
Before a crowd of 4,532 at Bank of America Arena at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, the Huskies rallied in the deciding fifth game to down UCLA 27-30, 30-19, 30-28, 24-30, 15-9. Minnesota will face USC in the other semifinal match on Dec. 16 in Long Beach. The championship match will take place Dec. 18.
“Unbelievable,” Brie Hagerty said of reaching the Final Four. “I don’t think I’ve realized the impact yet but it was unbelievable to win in front of our crowd. They were crazy. I mean, they were all doing the wave. That was such a big help.”
After dropping game one, the Huskies looked like they were in control when they won games two and three and led 12-3 in game four.
But UCLA staged a remarkable comeback. The Bruins went on a 12-3 run to tie the game at 15-15 and then pulled ahead 23-18 before tying the match up at two games apiece.
In the deciding fifth game, UCLA led 8-6 before the Huskies ripped off six straight points behind the powerful hitting of Hagerty.
“If it didn’t get started, it was going to be our last game,” Hagerty said. “Jim yelled at me to just hit the ball hard and I went in there and hit the ball hard and things went our way. Courtney got the ball up there for me and I knew it was coming so I kind of sucked in some air, went after the ball and hit it as hard as I could.”
Saturday night’s match was aired live on CSTV and will be broadcast tape delayed on FSN Northwest today at 10:30 a.m.
Three Huskies were named to the all-tournament team, including MVP Sanja Tomasevic, Courtney Thompson, and Hagerty. Melissa Walbridge (Penn State), Cassandra Kolkka (Saint Mary’s), Chrisse Zartman (UCLA) and Nana Meriwether (UCLA) were also chosen.
Tomasevic led all players with 24 kills, while Hagerty added 23. Thompson dished 67 assists on the night, while adding a career-best 21 digs. Sophomore Candace Lee had a career-high defensive performance in the win, logging 40 digs.