Maybe it’s the unfamiliar travel to Moscow for the Western Athletic Conference’s new teams, or maybe it’s Memorial Gym itself. Whatever it is, it’s just what Idaho needed on Thursday night when it swept Missouri-Kansas City 3-0 breaking a two-game losing streak in the process.
The clean sweep of the ‘Roos of Kansas City means Idaho has taken its last nine sets at Mem. Gym, dating back to home wins over Grand Canyon and Cal-State Bakersfield. Idaho took the sets 25-19, 25-23 and 25-17.
The win moves Idaho to 4-3 in WAC play with its only home loss in five sets to Utah Valley. The Vandals host last-place Chicago State on Oct. 19.
“Tonight we had really good rhythm, it was nice that we could all play together as a team,” outside hitter Jessica Hastriter said. “I think we had good chemistry and we’ve been working on a few different things in practice that I think has been helping.”
The attack was spread out in all three sets with at least five different players earning kills in each set. Five separate players had at least two kills in the final set among the six with kills. Hastriter led the way for the Vandals spread-attack with 18 kills on the night including six in the final set with a .429 hitting percentage on the night.
Ashley Christman contributed 10 kills and Taylor Wilkinson had eight kills.
The return of freshman Terra Varney from injury helped the Vandals in their effort to maintain runs, helping the defense with 11 digs on the night. The starter had missed the last four matches. Pulling the strings in the attack was Meredith Coba, who finished the night with 39 assists — five more than UMKC had as a team.
“(Tonight was) just us trying to get back into a rhythm,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said. “We didn’t have Varney for the last two weeks so she makes a big difference for our team just from a passing and a defense standpoint.”
Overcoming an ugly second set was instrumental in Idaho’s sweep, though other than that Idaho was dominant. The Vandals only put down 12 kills during the set, but received 12 points in errors from the ‘Roos. Down 8-6, the Vandals went on a 6-0 run to force the ‘Roos into a timeout. From there, the Vandals were able to clamp down defensively near the tail-end of the set and close it down immediately on set-point.
The third set was hardly in doubt from the start. Idaho committed only six errors and held Kansas-City to 11 kills behind 18 digs to send the Mem. Gym crowd home early and happy.
“We have to make our third game the best game,” Buchanan said. “We’re kind of just a roller coaster team at times, and I thought in game three we held steady, we were earning points, maybe gave up one and then started earning points again.”
The Vandals haven’t dropped a set at Mem. Gym since the opening set in their 3-1 win over Cal-State Bakersfield on Sept. 28 and are now 3-1 at home in conference play.
“It’s home, home is always easy, you got your band, you got your cheerleaders here, you have your crowd, everything is familiar,” Buchanan said. “We need to start taking this type of game, we played as a team, we competed, we have to take that on the road the next time. We just have to keep going up from here.”
Sean Kramer can be reached at email@example.com