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College volleyball: Washington State tops ‘scrappy’ Northern Arizona team in NCAA Tournament opener

UPDATED: Fri., Nov. 30, 2018

Dean Hare/

Washington State celebrates a five-set home win over  UCLA during the  2017 season. (Dean Hare / WSU Photo Services)
Dean Hare/ Washington State celebrates a five-set home win over UCLA during the 2017 season. (Dean Hare / WSU Photo Services)

Washington State’s volleyball team advanced to the second round of the NCAA Tournament against Tennessee with a four-set win against smaller but defensive-minded Northern Arizona Friday in Bohler Gym in Pullman.

“Credit to them,” Cougars coach Jen Greeny said of NAU. “They were scrappy.

“Their first line of defense is their serve, and their serve got us out of system. It did take us a little while to adjust and start mixing up our shots.”

NAU hung with the Cougars because its defense forced WSU into becoming predictable on offense, Greeny said.

McKenna Woodford finished off the Lumberjacks after taking a pass from Taylor Mims and hammering a shot through the block of Heaven Harris.

The Cougars took the match 25-23, 25-15, 22-25, 25-21. As the Cougars pulled away late in the fourth game, Greeny said she was looking forward to not having to play a fifth “more than life itself.”

Harris predicted a fifth game would have been “16-14, our favor.”

“I only wish it could have been,” NAU’s Kaylee Jorgenson said. “I think it would have been a fun match to watch.”

WSU faces Tennessee on Saturday in the second round. The Volunteers dropped the first two games but beat Colorado State 26-28, 20-25, 25-18, 25-21, 15-12.

“(Tennessee) is a bigger, more powerful team, like we’re used to playing in the Pac-12,” Greeny said

Woodford finished with a .275 hitting percentage and had 16 kills. Elevating and blasting shots off the corner, she keyed the Cougars’ attack.

“All of our hitters need to produce, even when we’re not passing well. McKenna came through big for us,” Greeny said.

Mims added 14 kills, Jocelyn Urias 12 and Ella Lajos 10.

In the third game, the Lumberjacks came from five points down to overtake the Cougars.

“We really pushed on defense,” Harris said. “We said, ‘Point after point. We’re going to play point after point.’ ”

The Cougars finished with a .264 team hitting percentage and held the Lumberjacks to .180.

“We’ve done a good job of keeping our opponents’ hitting percentage low,” Greeny said. “Their hitting percentage was too high for what we like.”

(22) Washington 3, Saint Mary’s 1: Kara Bajema had a match-high 16 kills and Avie Niece added seven blocks to lead the Huskies (19-12) past the Gaels (19-10) in Omaha, Nebraska.

The Huskies will meet Creighton (29-4) at 5 p.m. Saturday for a berth to next weekend’s regionals.

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