Volleyball sweeps Arizona road trip

WSU volleyball picked up pair of wins in Copper State against Sun Devils, Wildcats

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ABBY SONNICHSEN

WSU setter Hannah Pukis (9) and outside hitter Pia Timmer (7) prepare for an incoming spike during a college volleyball match against UCLA on Oct. 3, 2021, in Pullman.

AARIK LONG, Evergreen sports editor

For the first time since 2018, the Cougars completed a weekend sweep of the Arizona schools with wins against both Arizona State and Arizona.

Recently, the Cougs had been on a hot streak, picking up eight consecutive victories before losses to USC and No. 15 UCLA during a homestand two weeks ago.

Eclipsed by the home matches for soccer and the home game for football during homecoming weekend, WSU volleyball pulled together a pair of important wins to continue to stay in the hunt in the Pac-12.

Early on the road trip, it was clear that the Cougs were out to get things going in the right direction. Last season, the Cougs swept the Sun Devils and split the series with the Wildcats, winning one match 3-1 and dropping the second in a 3-0 sweep.

Before heading to Tucson for their revenge match against the Wildcats, the Cougs needed to handle business in Tempe against the Sun Devils on Thursday. WSU would handle their business with a commanding 3-0 sweep of Arizona State. 

Interior blocker Magda Jehlarova picked up a block following an opening error on the Sun Devils. The lead would jump back and forth for several rallies. At 8-9 in the first set, the Cougs would find a 4-0 run to jump out to a 12-9 lead. From there, the Cougs did not look back and would hold the lead through the rest of the set, finishing at 25-20.

Redshirt junior Hannah Pukis would get the second set going from the service line. Set two went solidly in favor of WSU. The Cougs would never trail and would not even be tied again after trading opening points. The set would ultimately fall into the Cougs lap with a 25-18 score,

Dealing with a 2-0 deficit on the scoreboard, the Sun Devils needed to find a way back into the match. For the first time in the match, Arizona State took the first point of a set and jumped out to a 1-0 lead. The first seven points went back and forth with Arizona State jumping out to a 4-3 lead. 

That is when WSU took control of the set. Six straight points for WSU made it a 9-4 score. Arizona State would never be able to climb out of this hole. A few more runs and the Cougs would cap the match off with a 25-14 win in set three.

Jehlarova and middle blocker Kalyah Williams led the match with 11 kills each. Pukis tallied 34 assists in the match, while Pia Timmer racked up three aces. 

Three days later, the Cougs took the court in Tucson against the hosting Wildcats. Looking to avenge their loss in the last meeting of these two teams, WSU came out of the gate hot. The Cougs recorded consecutive points on 11 occasions in the first set, using the momentum of earlier points to push themselves onward. Set one would go to WSU by a score of 25-18.

The Wildcats seemed to do a better job of trying to stymy any sort of steam the Cougs were collecting in the second set. WSU would only score consecutive points on eight occasions that time around.

However, Arizona could not get their own momentum, scoring consecutive points just three times and never going on a run of more than two straight points falling their way. WSU would jump out to a two-set lead with a score of 25-20 in the second set.

Any chance of stopping WSU went out the window in the third set. Arizona State did manage to put their own runs together, scoring consecutive points five times, including a 4-0 run that put the Wildcats up 13-10.

Getting your own runs only goes so far when you can not slow down your opponent’s runs, though. WSU scored on back-to-back points 10 times, including two 4-0 runs and a 3-0 run that ended the match. The Cougs closed the set out on a 12-4 run. Of the last eight points, seven went in favor of the Crimson and Gray. Ultimately, the Cougs took the set 25-20 to win the match.

Timmer would take the kills crown in the match, picking up 19 kills on her way to a .444 hitting percentage. Pukis led in assists once again with 41.

After the road trip, WSU currently sits in a tie with Washington, Utah and Stanford for third in the conference. At 4-2 in conference play, the Cougs are just a game back of No. 13 Oregon and No. 14 UCLA. 

The win also boosted WSU up into the American Volleyball Coaches Association’s Top 25 poll. The Cougs will travel one state to the south this week with a No. 25 ranking under their belt.

WSU returns to action on Friday against the Oregon State Beavers in Corvallis. The Beavers are having a rough season, currently sitting at 3-13 overall and 1-5 in Pac-12 action. The game gets started at 6 p.m. and can be streamed online.

In the second and much more important match of the weekend, the Cougs head to Eugene to face the No. 13 Oregon Ducks. Oregon is 14-2 overall this season and 5-1 in conference play. The lone loss came at the hands of Utah. The match starts at noon Sunday and can be watched on the Pac-12 Network.