|Never say die!|
SAN ANTONIO, Texas - Facing match point at 14-11 in the fifth set of the Western Athletic Conference semifinals, the Idaho volleyball team pulled off a spectacular comeback to beat host UTSA 16-14 and advance to its first WAC championship match with a 3-2 win Tuesday night.
"We called that timeout just to make sure that our kids knew we could still win, and not to give up, we had it within us to make those plays and to be dominant and really make a stand," Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. "I hoped they would look to each other and tonight, looking from player to player, they didn't give up. They had each other's backs in good times and bad. They kept fighting, and that's what you have to have happen when you're in those moments."
With senior Janelle Chow at the service line after a UTSA error and Idaho (17-13) trailing 14-12, UTSA (21-9) made another hitting error, then Allison (Walker) Baker got a kill, a block, and another kill to complete the comeback with the 16-14 win.
"I was trying to just be a leader on the court, keep everybody's heads up," Baker said. "There's never a point when you should ever give up, and we didn't, and we won."
Baker finished the match with 29 kills, matching her career high, while adding 19 digs, one shy of her career high, and added two blocks, while hitting .183.
"That was a long match, but that just proves that we're a good team and we can fight and we're going to put it all on the court," she said. "It's the end of the season and we don't want to go home. The energy on the court, just everything was crazy. It was so fun to play and that's why we play volleyball right there, is for those matches."
Taylor Wilkinson had 10 kills, five blocks and hit .400 in the match, and Alex Sele had eight kills and three blocks. Julia Church had three kills, nine digs and four blocks for Idaho, Katelyn Peterson added eight kills and Ashley Christman finished with six. Jenny Feicht had 28 assists and a career-high 24 digs and Ryann Carter had 20 assists and six digs. Chow finished with 22 digs and 11 assists.
"It was amazing," Chow said of being at the service line during Idaho's comeback. "They had match point, I just wanted to serve for my team, for my seniors. Whatever happened I just wanted to leave it all on the court and give it my best. Once I got out of the whole mindset of 'it's match-point for them' I just played my game. I've been playing volleyball forever and I just did what I do."
The Vandals lost the first set 25-16 before evening the match with a 25-18 win in set two. UTSA won the third set 25-21 and Idaho tied it once again with a 25-20 win in the fourth set before the dramatic 16-14 match-clinching win. Idaho hit .161 in the match, and held UTSA to a .138 hitting percentage. The Vandals out-dug the Roadrunners, barely, 100-99, however UTSA owned a 15.0-9.0 advantage in total blocks.
UTSA's McKenzie Adams, the WAC Player of the Year, had 17 kills and 22 digs while hitting .130 in the match. Brandy Huskey had 36 assists and 13 digs, and Whitney White added 13 kills and six digs for the Roadrunners.
The Vandals, who have played in five WAC semifinals, will play either (1) Utah State or (4) New Mexico State in Wednesday's championship match, which begins at 4 p.m. Central and will air live on ESPNU. Idaho split the regular season series with both teams, including a 3-0 sweep at New Mexico State in the regular season finale on Nov. 15.
"We're excited about our matchups," Buchanan said. "New Mexico State, we just played them, they're fresh in our minds. I think we match up well with Utah State. "We've talked all along about how our team has that potential, it's just a matter of putting it all together and playing for each other, fighting and battling, and I really feel like we didn't give up."