Nov. 24 – The evening at the Alaska Airlines Arena began with a celebration of the six Washington seniors playing their final home games.
And it ended with another celebration.
That’s because the home final was a win for Dani Cole, Shannon Crenshaw, Marin Grote, Claire Hoffman, Sianna Houghton and Ella May Powell.
No. 24 Washington wowed a large and boisterous crowd on Wednesday with a 25-23, 25-23, 15-25, 25-16 win that meant more than most since it was Senior Night.
“It doesn’t always happen, but you want every senior’s last memory of the Alaska Airlines Arena to be perfect,” said Washington coach Keegan Cook. “With this group nothing else would have been appropriate for how much they have won in their careers.”
Neither team led by more than two points in the opening set until Washington (20-9, 12-7 Pac-12) broke out of a 13-13 tie with four straight points. USC (20-10, 12-7) responded with three straight points and later took a 22-21 lead, causing Cook to time out.
The Huskies made Cook look like a genius, scoring four of the next five points to win the opener.
The key point came with a 22-point tie. Powell made a great save on an excellent USC serve and dug just off the ground. The ball went to Lauren Bays, who set up the kill for Emoni Bush.
USC appeared to have a 17-13 lead in the second set. But then Crenshaw served up six straight win points in a 7-0 run – aided by two blocks and a kill from Grote.
The Trojans rallied to level the score at 23, but UW scored the next two points, with Bush serving an ace to win the set.
USC took charge early in the third set, and unlike the first two sets, the Huskies couldn’t dig back in.
Cook said he made a few matchup and blocking allocation changes in the fourth set.
“We started a little early with Claire and Marin on the front row, and they did what they do,” Cook said. “They were outstanding throughout the game.”
Washington quickly took control of the fourth set, leading 7-2 and never letting USC get closer than three points after that.
And the party that started before the game continued.
Hoffman led the Huskies with 14 kills, including the point win. Grote had nine, and Crenshaw and Sophie Summers each had six. Powell had 32 assists, nine digs, two blocks and two kills.
The Huskies had just seven misses to 19 for USC.
“I had a lot of faith in them,” Cook said of his players. “… I’m really impressed with how they finished this match.”
The Huskies end the regular season with a game Friday night in Washington state.
NCAA tournament selection will be announced on Sunday. Washington is expected to receive an open bid for the 64-team tournament, but is not expected to be one of 16 seeded players to host first-round games.
“We’re getting healthier, we’re gaining some confidence and Friday (in Washington state) is going to be a big test,” Cook said. “It’s going to be a great environment and that’s what we’re going to see in December[at the NCAA tournament].”
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