|Dominant hitting lifts Vandals|
CHICAGO – The match began with Idaho losing an ugly first set at Chicago State but ended with the Vandal volleyball team hitting its best single-match hitting percentage in a decade, with several players reaching career-highs and milestones along the way in a 3-1 victory over the Cougars on Thursday night.
The Vandals fell 25-18 in the first set after being aced six times by the Cougars, but bounced back with 25-19, 25-20 and 25-16 wins for the 3-1 victory. Idaho improves to 16-10 on the season and 9-5 in the Western Athletic Conference while Chicago State falls to 2-28 overall and 0-15 in WAC play.
“We came out really flat from a ball-control standpoint,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “Every game after that we played better. It’s always a great win at someone else’s gym, but we have to get where we don’t come out that flat.”
Ali Forde had a career-best .579 hitting percentage and matched her career-high with 12 kills. Taylor Wilkinson matched her career-high of 10 kills and came a hair shy of her career-best hitting percentage of .667 by hitting .643 against the Cougars. Alyssa Schultz finished with 11 kills and raised her program-best career hitting percentage by hitting .611 in the match. Meredith Coba had her team-leading fifth double-double of the season, finishing with 45 assists and 12 digs and Jessica Hastriter had a team-high 13 kills on a .303 hitting percentage.
All of Idaho’s individual highlights added up to one major team accomplishment – Idaho’s .414 hitting percentage, its highest in a match since Sept. 6, 2003 when it hit .437 against Boise State. The Vandals finished Thursday’s match with 56 kills and just eight errors on 116 swings. That percentage was boosted by Idaho’s 15 kills without an error in the second set for a .577 clip.
“We definitely eliminated our errors from the hitting side,” Buchanan said. “In game two we didn’t have a single error the whole game. From that aspect we were definitely doing some good things. At this point in the season you would hope you can come out and take control. We’re definitely better than we played in the first set, but we have to be able to come out and show that.”
The Cougars, however, did have an advantage over Idaho at the service line, frustrating the Vandals with nine service aces to Idaho’s five, while Idaho committed eight service errors. Chicago State hit .233 in the match and Idaho held a 45-43 advantage in digs and an 8-2 lead in blocks. Schultz led Idaho with four blocks – moving into ninth place on Idaho’s career block-assists list with 340 along the way – and Forde and Hastriter each added three blocks.
After a 25-18 loss in the first set, Idaho fell behind 4-1 to start the second set. But the Vandals regrouped and took the lead at 9-8 en route to the match-tying win. The teams were tied 11-11 in the third set before Idaho took the lead for good, despite the set staying close until Idaho’s 3-0 push to close it out. After Idaho pulled out to a 6-2 lead in the fourth set, the Cougars never came closer than three points from the Vandals before the 25-16 match-clinching victory.
Idaho will visit Kansas City at 5 p.m. (PT) on Saturday, Nov. 16 before wrapping up the regular season at Grand Canyon on Nov. 21. The WAC tournament is Nov. 25-27 at Grand Canyon University in Phoenix.