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Magical night on Montlake: Husky Volleyball beats #2 Stanford

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On a night where legendary Husky Krista Vansant had her number 16 put in the rafters at Hec Ed, an emotional 13th-ranked UW squad came out firing to hand the Cardinal their first Pac-12 loss.

Husky volleyball legend Krista Vansant (in purple) watches with her family as her number is revealed in the rafters at Alaska Airlines Arena.
Ed Strong

Bob Houbregs. Courtney Thompson. Brandon Roy. Krista Vansant.

Last night at Alaska Airlines Arena, the very limited list of numbers that will never be worn again by a Husky gained a new member. Vansant, an outside hitter from 2011-2014 who won multiple national player of the year awards and is the career leader in kills as a Husky, was honored in a pregame ceremony in front of a crowd of 3,358.

With Vansant watching with her family from just behind the Husky bench, #13 Washington (20-6, 10-5 Pac-12) played inspired volleyball against a Stanford team that had blown through the entire Pac-12 to this point, prevailing in 4 sets (25-23, 19-25, 25-23, 25-17).

Historical significance

The win snapped a 3-game losing streak in the series against Stanford, but it also kept a remarkable streak intact: since November 2012, UW volleyball is now 11-0 at home against top-8 opponents:

Stanford has now been the victim of that streak four times, including on Vansant's senior night in 2014 when #5 Washington knocked off the undefeated #1 Cardinal in the final week of the regular season.

During that span, the Huskies have also taken down top-8 USC and UCLA twice each, plus Oregon, Arizona State, and Wisconsin.

How it happened

A huge run by Stanford (21-3, 14-1) late in the first set looked like it would be the difference, as the Cardinal went on a 17-6 spurt to turn a 14-5 deficit into a 22-20 lead. But a 4-0 run led by the serving of Destiny Julye and a strong force from Kara Bajema at the net closed out set 1 in the home team’s favor.

Set 2 was the only set in the match that had no lead changes or ties. Washington got within a couple of points on a few occasions, but a .600 hitting effort from Stanford (note: that’s utterly ridiculous against a top-15 opponent, even for a set) helped the Cardinal tie the match up at 1.

The Husky offense that was mostly held in check through the first two sets came to life in the third and fourth, hitting over .300 against the best blocking team in the Pac-12. Middle blocker Avie Niece, stepping in for the injured Marion Hazelwood, had 9 kills on 15 swings (1 error) for a .533 hitting percentage.

Stars of the Game

Kara Bajema’s hitting line doesn’t jump out at you: 14 kills, 7 errors, 33 attacks for a decent but unspectacular .212. But she handled the load of the offense and came up absolutely clutch late in the two close sets (1st and 3rd), with a block and a kill in the first and back-to-back kills to finish the third. She also solo-blocked Stanford middle Audriana Fitzmorris twice, which, to be quite honest, I have not seen an outside hitter do before. Period.

Tia Scambray racked up a match-high 17 digs and set a new career high with five aces, one of multiple Huskies that gave Stanford fits from the service line.

What’s next

The Huskies finish their second-to-last homestand by hosting California (13-12, 4-10 Pac-12) tonight at 7 PM, available on Pac-12 Network (WA feed only) and on Pac-12.com/live with a subscriber login. Next week the Huskies hit the road for their final regular season road trip as they visit the Oregon schools - Beavers on Friday, Ducks on Sunday.