Huskies gets Vansant back for volleyball tourney

SEATTLE — Who knows how long she waited? A few minutes. An hour, maybe two. It probably seemed like three months.

As Krista Vansant sat on the training table waiting for the results of X-rays on her injured left ankle two weeks ago, all she knew for certain was that the prognosis didn’t look good. A team trainer already had floated the possibility of a broken ankle, so the sophomore and top player on the University of Washington volleyball team was preparing herself for the worst.

And the Huskies’ season hanged helplessly in the balance.

Two weeks later, having learned that there was no structural damage and also having watched her UW volleyball team beat Oregon and two of three more opponents without her, Vansant is ready to return to the court tonight when the Huskies face Central Arkansas in an NCAA tournament first-round match at Hec Edmundson Pavilion.

And, boy, is UW happy to have her.

“It’s big,” head coach Jim McLaughlin said as his team prepared for its 10th consecutive NCAA tournament appearance. “It adds passing, four-plus kills a game. Her blocking is very good, her serving is very good.

“So it upgrades our team significantly if she’s playing well. If you’re not playing well, for whatever reason, then somebody else needs to be in there.”

The Huskies (23-6) aren’t sure what they’ll get out of Vansant when she makes her long-awaited return to the court tonight. But they’re willing to take the chance that the 6-foot-2 outside hitter from Redlands, Calif., will be close enough to form to make a difference.

“You’ve got to travel down the road a little bit before you see what turn you’ve got to make,” McLaughlin said, “but we’ll see how far we can travel with her.”

Since injuring her ankle in the Nov. 16 home match against Oregon, Vansant has been targeting the tournament for her return. She sat out the final three matches of the regular season and was wearing a protective boot this time last week.

After working her way back into practices this week, she’s ready to get back in action.

“It’s an NCAA tournament game,” Vansant said. “This is all or nothing, and I don’t want something to happen and then I’d end up putting it on myself if I didn’t play. That’s just how I am.”

Without Vansant, the 13th-seeded Huskies probably couldn’t have been considered a Final Four contender. But her return, a 6-2 record in November and one of the deepest teams McLaughlin has ever had means UW is confident heading into this weekend’s first- and second-round matches.

“Our possibilities are endless,” Vansant said. “We have a chance to get really hot and go all the way. I’m not going to sell us short because the sky’s the limit with this team. It’s all on us.”

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