Washington State volleyball swept the Northern Colorado Bears to advance to the round of 32 in the NCAA Tournament on Thursday afternoon. The third set saw the Cougs have to dig out of a five point deficit to complete the sweep.
It was an impressive defensive performance for WSU as the Bears hit only .146 over the three sets; on the offensive side of things, the Cougar offense was incredibly efficient as they hit .328. That defense also made nine blocks as it just simply stifled any potential scoring runs that Northern Colorado could muster.
Kalyah Williams led all attackers with 11 kills, while freshmen Katy Ryan had one of the best performances of her young career in the first round of the NCAA tournament. Ryan hit .412 with eight kills and two blocks — Williams also had one hell of match as she hit .435 with three blocks of her own.
Next up for the Cougs is the winner of the Baylor/Texas A&M – Corpus Christi match tomorrow in Waco, Texas.
The first point of the set came after an impressive rally and went to WSU after an attack error. Northern Colorado got the next point and then the second point after that. But the Cougs prevented the Bears from going on a run as it tied at two. Neither squad was able to go on a run as they continued to split the opening points.
Northern Colorado managed to build a two point lead by Ryan and a net violation by UNC erased that lead to tie it at five. A service ace gave WSU its first lead of the third set. But that was quickly erased.
A UNC service error and Williams ninth kill gave the Cougars a two point lead. That was a lead that didn’t last long as the Bears went on a 3-0 run to take a 9-8 lead. It was the beginning of a 5-0 run that forced a Washington State’s first timeout of the match with the Bears up 11-8.
Out of the timeout, the first four points were evenly split between the two squads. But then Northern Colorado scored back-to-back points to make it 15-10.
Pukis scored the Cougars second point after the timeout for her fifth kill of the match. It didn’t take long for Northern Colorado to get its lead back to five. Penny Tusa earned her fifth kill of the afternoon when her long kill was touched at the net. The Cougars got another point on the next try to cut UNC’s lead to three.
On the next point, the Bears had a block go out of bounds to cut their lead to two at 16-14 as their coaching staff took a timeout.
The first point after the timeout went to UNC after a Tusa attack error. Ryan narrowed the lead back to two at 15-17. Tusa and Williams picked up a block that found a hole in the Bears’ defense to make it 17-16 and then the pair tied it up on the next point at 17.
Washington State’s 4-0 run was punctuated by a Pukis kill to take the lead back at 18-17. But the Bears quickly knotted the set score back up. Tusa quickly have her squad back the lead with her sixth kill of the match; the fifth year senior then followed that up with an ace to make it 20-18 Washington State as Northern Colorado took a timeout.
Williams had an emphatic block at the net and that was followed up by another Tusa ace to push Washington State’s lead to four — UNC was out of timeouts. The Bears responded with kill to make it 19-22. But Williams struck again for her 12th kill to make it 23-19; UNC used a challenge to act like a timeout.
Washington State’s first match point came after a blocking error for Northern Colorado at 24-19. The Bears earned the next point to force a second straight match point. A UNC net violation sent the Cougars to the second round with a sweep after a 25-20 third set win.
UNC scored the first point of the second set. The Cougars responded with back-to-back points, this included a Pukis ace. But the Bears got a kill to prevent WSU from getting into a scoring run. It didn’t take long for Washington State to go push its lead back out to two at 5-3.
The WSU lead got pushed to three thanks to Tusa at 7-4. She came up with a beautiful kill that Northern Colorado couldn’t corral on the next point and Washington State’s lead was up to four.
Northern Colorado got the lead back to three after an impressive rally; it was a rally that included an athletic kick to keep the point alive.
Unfortunately, a Cougar service error cut their lead back to two. But Northern Colorado responded with its own service error to make it a three point WSU lead; and then Tusa got another point for the Cougs to make it 10-6. That Washington State lead eventually reached five before UNC cut it to four again.
Williams sixth kill of the night made the Cougar lead five again at 12-7. Argentina Ung’s fifth kill of the afternoon made it 13-7 before the Bears were able to respond again. But the Cougars got their led back to six on a beautiful kill that gave the Northern Colorado defense no time to respond.
Rachel Hickman’s kill cut the Cougar’s lead back to five at 15-9 and we headed into the media timeout.
Out of the timeout, the Bears went out on a 3-0 run to cut the Cougar lead to three at 15-12. Ryan put an end to that run with her fifth kill and to get the Cougars lead back to four. That was quickly followed up with another point for the Cougs.
Unfortunately, a service error got the Bears back on the score board. The Cougars responded with a pair of back-to-back points to make it 19-13. Pukis earned her third kill of the match to push the Cougars’ lead up to seven before a timeout.
Northern Colorado scored the first point out of the timeout. But Williams quickly got her seventh kill to get the lead back to seven. Ung’s seventh kill made it 22-14 as we headed into another UNC timeout.
Out of the timeout, an errant dig for Washington State gave the Bears a point to make it 22-15. But Williams responded with her eighth kill of the match to make it a eight point Cougar lead. A net violation by UNC earned the Cougs their first set point of the second set at 24-15.
Ung’s eighth kill gave the Cougars a 25-15 second set win and a 2-0 advantage in the match.
The first set started with an Northern Colorado scoring the first point. But WSU quickly turn it up as both squads settled into swapping points throughout the early part of the set. This went on for the first six points of the set, and included an impressive kill for Williams.
Pukis gave the Cougars their first lead of the match by tipping the ball over the net. But the Bears quickly tied it up on a soft bump across the net. Ung helped the Cougars stitch together their first back-to-back points of the match came on push their lead to two at 6-4.
Northern Colorado kept the score within one, but WSU would repeatedly push it to two.
That is until Jehlarova hit a sharp cross court kill that was followed up by a Bears’ attack error. Ryan’s block made it a 5-0 run for Washington State as UNC took a timeout. Out of the timeout, the run continued and eventually ended at 6-0, with the Cougars up 12-7.
Jehlarova’s emphatic block pushed the Washington State lead back to six. But that was followed up by a service error. That was followed up by a 3-0 run that was capped by an emphatic block from Tusa.
Ryan pushed that run to 4-0 as WSU was up 17-8 which forced Northern Colorado to use its final timeout of the set. The run continued out of the timeout as it reached 5-0 at 18-9 after the Bears scored their first point out of the timeout.
UNC strung together it’s first run that reaches 4-0 to cut the lead to five. Williams’ kill put an end to the run at 19-14. The first challenge came on the next point as it was originally ruled a block error — the ball went out of bounds off the Bear block; the call was confirmed which made it 20-13. A service ace pushed the lead back to eight for Washington State.
Down the stretch, these two squads split the final points evenly. But the first set point came off of a UNC service error gave the Cougs their first set point at 24-16. The second set point came after a beautiful soft kill by the Bears at 24-17 WSU.
A block error for UNC led to a 25-17 first set victory for WSU.
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Photo credit: WSU volleyball