Blinn, Joseph Named All-Tournament As Bulldogs Claim Second
BOISE, Idaho – Oh, so close.
Most prognosticators probably would have predicted Gonzaga University’s volleyball team coming out of the season-opening Northwest Challenge 2-1, and they would have been right.
But the Bulldogs came so close to being 3-0 following a 3-2 loss to fourth-ranked University of Washington and a 3-1 win over Portland State University in Saturday’s action to finish second behind 3-0 Washington. Host Boise State University went 1-2 and PSU finished 0-3.
The Bulldogs fell to the Huskies 26-24, 27-29, 25-20, 24-26, 15-8 Saturday afternoon, but the Zags battled back Saturday night to topple PSU 29-27, 22-25, 25-21, 25-19.
It was the second straight season Gonzaga had taken the Huskies to the limit, also falling 3-2 in this tournament held at Portland State, the Huskies taking the match 25-18, 25-21, 26-28, 30-32, 15-9.
In the afternoon battle of the dogs, the stats were nearly identical. Both teams had 149 attack attempts, but Gonzaga hit .181 on 63 kills and 326 attack errors while the Huskies hit .302 on 67 kills and 22 attack errors. Washington had 15 team blocks on three block solos and 24 block assists, to Gonzaga’s 11 team blocks on 22 block assists.
Savannah Blinn, named to the all-tournament team, paced the Bulldogs with 22 kills and a .200 attack percentage, McKayla Ferris contributed 11 kills and a .286 attack percentage and Jordan Gasser added 10 kills and a .103 percentage. Imani Wimbush had nine of Gonzaga’s 22 block assists with Blinn and Gasser adding four each.
Lauren Joseph had 46 assists against Washington and 51 against Portland State to quarterback the Gonzaga offense.
Gonzaga out dug the Huskies 50-42 with Macee Utecht leading Gonzaga with 16.
Head coach Dave Gantt said the turning point came in the first set of the 2 hour, 18 minute match.
“We were up by six twice in the first set (6-0 and 13-7) and lost it. That’s the one that haunts us, not playing poorly in the fifth. I would have loved to be up 2-0 to see how both teams responded. There were sustained sequences of brilliance on our side, just not long enough in the first set. It was a high-level match until the fifth set, but we can pat ourselves on the back for hanging in there and giving Washington more than they wanted.”
Gantt said the difference was the offensive attack against Washington.
“Washington’s hitting percentage got better every set. We won a couple of sets when we didn’t hit as well, we just gutted it out,” Gantt said. “Washington handled first contact in the fifth set really well and that was the separator. We weren’t able to push back with their offensive side.”
Gonzaga hit minus .062 in the decisive fifth set while Washington .636 with eight kills and just one error in 11 attempts.
The Bulldogs did a relatively good job on Krista Vansant, Washington’s offensive leader who had 19 kills and a .350 attack percentage. But Kaleigh Nelson had 26 kills and a .524 attack percentage to pick up the Huskies.
Gantt said the real positive of the day was the way his club bounced back in the evening match.
“One of the positives was that first match was 2:18 and we had to go again for another two hours (against PSU) and gritted it out. What transpired in that match is not reflected on the stats sheet or score sheet. We got a little bit better each set but didn’t handle ball well at key times in the second. We’ll take the win, sometimes you have to gut it out and grit it out. The players felt good about things and the coaches felt great. Practice will address some things and we’ll get better,” Gantt said.
Ferris, who Gantt said needed to get more involved in the offense following Friday’s win over Boise State, did just that against PSU as she had a match-high 22 kills and .405 attack percentage. Blinn add 16 kills and a .275 percentage as Gonzaga hit .262.
“I’m proud of our kids. We had to extend ourselves this evening. I think Savannah was consistent throughout all three matches, Gasser played well against Boise State and McKayla played well against Washington and Portland State,” Gantt said.
Joining Blinn and Joseph on the all-tournament were tournament MVP Vansant, Nelson and Tia Scambray of Washington; Leigh-An Haataja of PSU and Sierra Nobley of BSU.