The new-look Western Athletic Conference might not be so tough for the Vandals after all.
Following last Friday’s disappointing five-set loss to Utah Valley in its conference opener, Idaho finished its three-game home stand on a two game winning streak, capping it with a sweep of Grand Canyon 3-0 Monday night at Memorial Gym. The Vandals are 2-1 in WAC play.
Idaho took the sets 26-24, 25-18 and 25-23.
Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said she was happy with the way her team dealt with adversity Monday night. The team overcame an early five-point deficit in the third set to finish off the sweep and did so without starting defensive setter Terra Varney, who sat out Monday night’s match with a concussion.
“I thought considering that we had to make some adjustments to our line-up tonight … we made some good adjustments,” Buchanan said. “We were able to come back in game three. I think that shows a little bit that we can deal with some adversity and still hang in there.”
The tone was set for the Vandals in the first set in a battle of runs between the two teams. Idaho led 5-1 and 16-12 at points in the match, only to see the Antelopes battle back to a potential set point at 25-24. Sophomore setter Meredith Coba and senior middle blocker Taylor Wilkinson took over from there. Coba assisted on three straight Vandal points with the tying and winning kills being struck by Wilkinson.
The attack was widely distributed with Alyssa Schultz, Jessica Hastriter and Wilkinson each striking four kills in the first set.
Idaho took advantage of Grand Canyon’s 11 errors in the second set, easily taking the set 25-18.
The third set is where adversity set in for Idaho. Grand Canyon jumped out to a quick 12-7 lead, compelling Buchanan to take a timeout to settle her team down, which spurred her team on an 18-11 run to close out the sweep. Idaho revved up the attack, getting 16 of its 46 kills in the final set.
“Sometimes we start to get so uptight and you know, it’s another game. We’re up two games and we have nothing to lose, but just to relax and play,” Buchanan said. “(I told our team) we can still win this game if we just lock in here and start making some plays and execute the way we’re supposed to. And we started to do that.”
Idaho had diversity in its attack with four players hitting at least seven kills including Schultz, Katelyn Peterson and Wilkinson. Hastriter led Idaho with 15 kills. It led to Idaho out-killing Grand Canyon 45-42 and outhitting the Antelopes .300 to .211.
“That’s what we’ve been working on in practice this entire season is that all of our hitters are awesome and they can put the ball down equally,” said Coba, who led all players on the night with 38 assists. “It’s awesome being a setter and being able to distribute to anyone, having the confidence that they can take care of the ball. It just makes it fun and makes it easy for me. All the hitters are great.”
The win sends Idaho out to a three game road trip with momentum — a road trip that includes a game against defending conference champion New Mexico State on Saturday.
“It gives us momentum to go into next week which is awesome, because it’s a huge road trip for us,” Coba said. “There’s nothing like winning at home in front of our fans.”
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com