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#7 Volleyball survives major scare in home opener

Montana State comes up just short of massive upset

Sianna Houghton (17, far left) keyed a late rally as Washington rallied to beat Montana State in five sets
Red Box Pictures via UW Athletics

Maybe it’s time for UW athletics to stop scheduling schools from the Treasure State.

12 days after Husky football suffered one of the worst losses in program history to Montana, seventh-ranked volleyball came within a bad bounce or two of matching that unwanted record, narrowly escaping with a 16-14 fifth-set win over Montana State (26-28, 25-17, 22-25, 25-11, 16-14).

Rallying from a 2-1 set deficit would have been a tough enough task, but after UW dominated set four, the hill to climb suddenly got much steeper when Montana State (4-6) ran off the first five points of the fifth including back-to-back aces by Jourdain Klein. The Huskies tried to claw back in, but three blocks in the span of four points by the Bobcats helped MSU re-establish a five-point lead at 10-5.

A solo block by Marin Grote helped cut the lead a bit, but MSU still led 11-7 before the Huskies made their move. Grote got a kill to pull within three as serving specialist Sianna Houghton rotated in and Houghton came up huge, with tricky serves keeping the Bobcats out of system as UW won four straight points on her serve, capped by a block and kill by Madi Endsley that tied it and then took the lead 12-11. Montana State tied it three more times at 12, 13 and 14 (fighting off a match point) before the Huskies were able to convert their second match point when Shannon Crenshaw served a splitter that dropped in front of the Bobcat serve-receive for a match-winning ace.

Only once in the past 20 seasons has UW lost a regular-season match to an unranked non-conference opponent, and that was nearly-ranked Hawaii in 2019, who went on to secure the #12 national seed and make the Sweet 16. To find a similar loss to what the Huskies dodged on Thursday, you have to go back to 2000, when the pre-Jim McLaughlin Huskies lost to UTSA and Idaho.

The Huskies then rounded out the day with a bit less drama, knocking off Fresno State (3-4) in straight sets (25-23, 25-17, 25-17), albeit a tight first set due to the team coming down with the yips at the service line with five errors.

Washington was scheduled to have one more match to finish non-conference play tomorrow night against Portland, but the Pilots withdrew from the tournament (lack of players due to “non-COVID related injuries and medical concerns”). That leaves UW with a 7-1 record as they head into Pac-12 play, starting with a key home match against #10 Utah (Wed, Sept. 22, 8pm, ESPNU). Fresno State and Montana State will round out the tournament with a match tomorrow at 1pm.

Injury notes

Fourth-year OH Claire Hoffman was held out of both matches due to precautionary reasons; Head Coach Keegan Cook said that if this had been a late-season or postseason match, Hoffman probably would have played but the staff just wanted to make sure she’s at 100% (or as close as possible) for the start of Pac-12 play.

Fifth-year MB Lauren Sanders was unavailable for the second week in a row due to health and safety protocols after also not making the trip to last week’s matches at Pepperdine; the team hopes to get her back in the next week or two.