In a match that combined dominance in the first set and lead changes and tempo switches throughout the second and third, the Vandals didn’t let up on Saturday at Memorial Gym against Chicago State to win the contest 3-0.
The Vandals finished off the first set with solid team hitting and a hitting percentage of .455 to Chicago State’s .088. Sophomore outside hitter Katelyn Peterson was relentless at the net with six kills to lead the team. Sophomore libero Jenna Ellis guarded the back row with six digs and Peterson racked up the final kill to finish off the set at 25-12.
The Vandals fell behind and trailed as much as 7-5 in the second set but evened up the score 7-7 as the two teams battled for a slight edge throughout the rest of the second set. In the end, the Vandals ran away with a lead change to their advantage. Freshman Ali Forde closed it off as she continues to impress early in her career to aid the Vandals to a 25-21 set win.
“Ali played great, she came off the bench as a key player tonight. Honestly if we could run a 6-2 all the time and have our four pin hitters in and have Ali as one of them I think we’d be ok,” Idaho coach Debbie Buchanan said.
The Cougars got a fresh start in the third set to pick up a 3-0 lead, but the Vandals came back to even it up on a scoring run to set the score at 4-4. The Cougars kept fighting to take a 9-7 lead but the Vandals scored consecutive points to even up the score until the Cougars found a gap in the back row to temporarily catch Ellis off guard.
Senior outside hitter Ashley Christman caught fire after that and began to erase the deficit with a momentum-swinging kill to later finish with 10 on the night. Christman continued to guard the net evening up the score and then giving Idaho a 13-12 advantage. The third-set roller coaster continued with a failed dig attempt from Terra Varney and an out of bounds hit from Christman before junior middle blocker Alyssa Schultz came through on the offensive to put another point on the board for the Vandals.
Ali Forde came in for Varney to get a kill for a 17-16 lead before a much-needed timeout for both teams. The Vandals completed the set and match in dramatic fashion with two consecutive kills in a few intense back-and-forth rallies. In a match full of lead changes with 13 total and 23 tie scores, the Vandals finished off the third set to win 25-19.
The Vandals held the Cougars to a dismal .124 hitting percentage on the match and combined for 42 kills to outplay the Cougars kill total of 32. Although the Vandals’ first-set dominance didn’t necessarily translate for the duration of the game, the home team hit a respectable .309 on the night despite only hitting .167 as a team in the third set. This was largely thanks to Christman who hit .562 on the night and served the ball more than usual as well.
“If we feel like Ashley’s on for her jump serve we’re going to go for it,” Buchanan said.
Forde hit .368 with 9 kills. Meredith Coba ran the offense with good distribution totaling 33 assists and played well on the defensive end finishing behind Ellis’ 15 digs to get the second most on the team with nine of her own. With this second-consecutive win after erasing Missouri-Kansas City 3-0 on Thursday, the Vandals jump to 12-8 on the year and 5-3 against WAC opponents.
The Vandals look to match their home success on the road with a rematch against Utah Valley who beat them a couple weeks ago in their only home loss of the season. The Vandals face Utah Valley on Thursday at Orem, Utah, followed by another match against Cal-State Bakersfield in Bakersfield, Calif., on Saturday. The season is looking up for the Vandals if they can keep the momentum going with Varney finally back in the lineup.
Aaron Wolfe can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org