Vandal Volleyball recorded its 11th sweep of the season and its first conference tournament win since 2015 on Thursday in the first round of the Big Sky Tournament at Sacramento State.
Idaho (18-10, BSC 12-4) dismantled in-state rival Idaho State (11-19, BSC 8-8) to advance to the Friday’s semifinals.
Junior outside hitter Sarah Sharp was once again the driving force on the attack for Idaho. The first team all-conference athlete recorded a match-high 17 kills on a .351 attacking percentage.
In the opening frame, Idaho asserted its authority of the match, striking down 16 kills on .519 efficiency. The Vandals took an 11-7 lead thanks to kills from Sharp and junior outside hitters Kaela Straw and Reece Carman.
A moment later, junior outside hitter Klaree Hobart flung three straight aces past Idaho State’s defense to give Idaho a commanding 20-12 advantage. Idaho would score five of the last seven points to take a 25-17 win.
Idaho State picked up its first lead of the match after going up 4-0 early in the second. The lead soon diminished, as a kill from Sharp sparked a 5-0 run that was capped off by another strike from Carman, giving Idaho a 9-5 lead.
Idaho again took a 20-12 lead, resulting from extended runs. Kills from Straw and senior middle blocker Torrin Crawford propelled the Vandals to a 25-18 victory.
The Bengals again started strong in the third set, forcing the Vandals to play from behind throughout. Idaho regained its lead at 12-11 after kills from Sharp and Crawford. Idaho State did not perish without a fight, though, as it took back the lead at 19-16.
A 5-1 Vandal run just a minute later put Idaho on back top, 21-20, before the Gem State competitors traded points down the stretch. Carman and Sharp powered the Vandals through the finish, both recording kills to give the Vandals a 25-23 set and match win.
Head coach Debbie Buchanan said in a news release she was delighted with the team’s performance.
“I am super proud of our team,” Buchanan said. “We had a great night blocking and hitting. I thought we served extremely tough and really took Idaho State out of system. We did everything we talked about and followed our gamelan. Now we need to get ready for North Dakota.”
The Vandals tallied seven total blocks, four coming from Carman. While hitting a combined .429 on the attack, thanks to .474 and .429 from Straw and Carman, respectively, Idaho committed only five errors, compared to 16 Bengal blunders.
Idaho will face No. 2 seed North Dakota 4:35 p.m.Friday in the conference semifinal. The Vandals took down the Fighting Hawks, 3-2, on Nov. 4.
Colton Clark can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @coltonclark95