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Volleyball flashes Final Four potential in sweep of unbeaten Utes

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Ninth-ranked Washington beats #7 Utah twice to seize the Pac-12 lead

True freshman Madi Endsley led the Huskies with 12 kills on .455 hitting in the series opener
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SEATTLE — The Huskies passed their biggest test of the year so far with flying colors.

#9 Washington volleyball (10-2 Pac-12) handed the first two losses of the season to #7 Utah (8-2) on Thursday and Saturday to earn sole possession of first place in the conference, albeit in rather different ways. UW swept Utah 25-21, 25-23, 25-19 by hitting an excellent .333 in the first meeting, then relied on a season-high 17 blocks to win round two 25-21, 25-17, 23-25, 25-18, holding Utah to a season-worst .150 hitting.

The Huskies posted by far the highest two hitting percentages Utah has allowed this season, with their hot .333 on Thursday followed up by a solid .267 on Saturday. The previous high for a Utah opponent was USC, who hit .173 in a 3-2 loss at Utah on Feb. 14. Utah came into the week allowing opponents to hit just .109, which ranked not only first in the Pac-12 but throughout the Power Five.

The Huskies set a season-high with 17 blocks in the second match, 10 of which included MB Marin Grote in a career day for the junior. Grote posted her first career double-double by notching 11 kills and those career-high 10 blocks. Her one previous match with double-digit kills was an 11-kill day as a freshman vs Colorado in 2018; her previous high in blocks was seven, which she had in both matches UW played at UCLA a few weeks ago.

Junior libero Shannon Crenshaw engineered some excellent runs at the service line in the finale and had 15 digs, including a spectacular save vs Utah All-American Dani Drews — just look at the reactions of Utes Sommer Daniel (8) and Kenzie Koerber (4), who start to celebrate before realizing that somehow the point is still going.

The road ahead doesn’t get much easier for Washington as the Huskies will next head to #22 Oregon, another member of what has become a five-team chase atop the conference. Top of the Pac-12 standings through Saturday:

  1. #9 Washington (10-2)
  2. #7 Utah (8-2)
  3. #17 Washington State (7-2)
  4. #22 Oregon (7-2)
  5. #15 UCLA (8-3)

Washington and Utah are done for the week, but the other three will each host a match tomorrow: WSU vs Cal, Oregon vs Colorado and UCLA vs Arizona.