PULLMAN – Dayton’s volleyball team compiled the nation’s longest winning streak of 27 matches by making a habit of avoiding bad stretches.
Although the Flyers found themselves uncomfortably trailing Washington State after the Cougars claimed the first two sets in their NCAA Tournament second-round match Saturday, Dayton rallied to take the third behind a great defensive against WSU’s own stellar defense.
Behind Magda Jehlarova, however, the NCAA and Pac-12 career leader in blocks, who gave the Cougars 15 kills and nine blocks against the Flyers, WSU dominated the fourth set 25-16 to move on to the regional round in Pittsburgh.
The Cougars (26-7) have won seven in a row. Dayton ends its season 32-3.
The teams combined for 102 digs for the match – 50 for the Cougars and 52 for the Flyers. Dayton’s Karissa Kaminski led the way with 18. Pia Timmer had 11 for WSU.
Knowing what they were up against facing such relentless returners, Jehlarova said hitters like herself “had to go in with a defensive mentality.”
She also had some praise for her team’s defense.
“From the block to the back row, our defense was insane,” she said. “I didn’t think we would have made those digs in any other game this year.”
WSU’s Argentina Ung, who contributed eight digs, seven blocks and four kills, said the Cougars had a strategy against Dayton’s defense.
“Our hitters were putting the ball away as fast as they could,” Ung said.
Early leads helped WSU take control of the first two sets. The Cougars raced to a 4-0 advantage in the opener, although Dayton forced a tie at 8-all. The Flyers never overtook WSU, but they stayed within contact and got as close as 24-21 before Jehlarova finished them off with a block for the final point.
Iman Isanovic paced the Cougars in the set with four kills and .333 hitting percentage.
Taylor Russell had six kills and a block for Dayton.
WSU continued its early sprint in the second set and raced to a 5-1 edge on the way to winning 25-15. Late in the set, WSU made an effort to set Timmer. She responded with timely kills with the Cougars leading 18-13 and 19-14.
The Flyers won the third set 25-20. WSU coach Jen Greeny had a message for her team in timeouts.
“(Dayton) would respond, and they did,” Greeny said. “They really put the pressure on us from the service line.”
The second-round win took place on Greeny’s birthday.
“(They) all chipped in, and they got me a gift,” Greeny said.
The regional will include host Pitt (27-4), WSU’s first opponent. Louisville (26-4) will play Creighton (29-4) in the other match.