Friday, October 31, 2014

College | Washington volleyball enters Bruins’ den facing history

Undefeated Huskies on same campus where longest streak ended

UCLA's Karsta Lowe attacks against the block of Washington's Krista Vansant and Lianna Sybeldon during the Huskies'
dramatic 3-2 come from behind victory in Seattle on October 3, 2014
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
On November 12, 2005, second-ranked Washington traveled to Westwood with a perfect 23-0 mark. The defending Pac-10 champions faced #21 UCLA, a team with a 15-8 record. Three of the five sets (in the 30-point era) were decided by two points, with the Bruins prevailing 3-2 (34-32, 30-27, 28-30, 25-30, 15-13). It would be the only loss of the 2005 campaign, as Washington won the National Championship.

Tonight, defending Pac-12 champion Washington is again ranked #2, and is again undefeated (22-0). This year’s Bruins are ranked #16 with a 15-6 record. The parallels are hard to miss.

Earlier this year in Seattle, Washington had to come from behind to beat UCLA 3-2 (18-25, 24-26, 25-17, 25-20, 15-10). That is one of a couple of warning shots that might make tonight’s match must-see:
  • This will be the Bruins’ first home match of the season. A massive flood caused by a broken city pipe shut down both Pauley Pavilion and the adjacent Wooden Center all autumn, forcing UCLA to play its LA matches at Pepperdine and elsewhere. The Wooden Center reopens tonight, and it carries fond memories for Bruin seniors: it was their home court in 2011, when UCLA won its latest national title.
  • UCLA senior Karsta Lowe has just one serious rival for 2014 Pac-12 Player of the Year: Washington’s Krista Vansant. Lowe leads the nation in kills per set (6.04), Vansant is 14th (4.62). In the teams’ first meeting, Lowe had 28 kills, to 19 for Vansant. Vansant’s all-around game (passing, serving, blocking, hitting) is arguably superior, but Lowe (like Vansant) will be a First Team All-American, and can be an absolute handful when she’s on a roll.
  • The Huskies defeated the Bruins in LA last season, but lost the three previous Westwood trips in 2010, 2011 & 2012. During the Jim McLaughlin era, UW is 5-8 against UCLA in Los Angeles. Four of those eight losses were in five sets.

This season’s UCLA @ Washington match was not televised. Sadly, the Pac-12 Network will not televise the rematch, either. You’ll have to try to stream the match on a feed provided by UCLA’s Sports Information Department.

Washington’s longest streaks to open the season during the Jim McLaughlin era:

Thanks to those who’ve asked about Volleyblog Seattle’s whereabouts the past two weeks. After covering Washington’s victory against Oregon in Eugene, we attended the 7th Annual Indie Spirit Film Festival in Colorado Springs, where our volleyball documentary, Court & Spark, won the Audience Award as the Best Sports Documentary. We then visited family in Colorado and California, enjoying autumn high-altitude camping in several National Parks along the way.

There were a few non-blog volleyball assignments, however. In case you missed them:

Monday, October 13, 2014

National Team | Washington volleyball great Courtney Thompson part of historic USA gold

USA women win first major championship in 50 years
  • USA def. China 3-1 (27-25, 25-20, 16-25, 26-24)

College | On Kaleigh Nelson’s last Oregon trip, Washington volleyball beats the Ducks
A turning point after a time out keeps the Huskies undefeated
  • #3 Washington def. #11 Oregon 3-1 (21-25, 25-17, 25-20, 25-16)

Washington's Krista Vansant attacks past the Oregon block attempt in the Huskies' 3-1 victory Sunday morning
-photo courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

EUGENE—Kaleigh Nelson awoke early Sunday just as she had so many other times in her life: in Oregon. Washington’s senior All-American went to high school near Salem, and with each return to her home state, there was always a contingent of family and friends in the stands. After four seasons—each more productive than the last—this would be her final college match in Oregon.

“I didn’t really think about it,” she said. “We had a lot of work to do, and I can’t really pay attention to what’s out there in the stands.”

When Nelson was growing up, the Ducks played in historic Mac Court. When the Huskies came to town, the arena’s wooden bleachers pounded like a thousand drums under the weight of sold-out crowds.
Washington players celebrate a point against Oregon
-photo courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

But Oregon’s new home, Matt Court, with its sleek NBA-style exterior and subdued, cushioned interior, drew a Sunday morning crowd of just 1,631—a shame considering Washington came in undefeated, and Oregon’s only loss was to #1 Stanford.

Nelson and her Washington teammates played the first set like they had just barely rolled out of bed. There was little spark, and a ton of unforced errors, leading to a 25-21 Oregon win.

The Huskies roared back in the second set, however, as Washington’s hitters took better approaches in transition, and hit the ball with more authority. “We cleaned it up and quit making errors,” said Nelson. “We passed a lot better and were more on our assignments.”

The Huskies continue to roll early in the third, until the Ducks went on a tear. An 8-2 Oregon run forced Coach Jim McLaughlin to call a timeout. “I told them they had to have mental intensity,” he said. “If you lose it, it’s hard to get it back. You can’t let up ever up in this game.”

It proved to be the turning point. From the back row, Krista Vansant blasted a kill past the Oregon block. After a Tia Scambray ace, Vansant stuffed an Oregon attack, then followed with a cross-court kill to the very deepest corner of the court. The Ducks shook their heads, and Coach Jim Moore called a timeout.

But the damage had been done. Washington’s servers continued to keep Oregon out of system, allowing UW’s blockers to roof the Ducks time and time again. For the match, Washington outblocked Oregon 20-6. Lianna Sybeldon—the nation’s leading blocker—added another 11 block assists to her season total.

The Ducks, cowed by all the blocks, tried to tip their way to kills. But Huskies defenders were there time and again, picking up 57 digs for the match. “Once you have a good block,” said McLaughlin, “It’s human nature, you don’t want to get blocked and you start tipping. We knew it was coming.”

Late in the fourth set, with the Huskies firmly in control, the two teams had two stellar rallies, among the longest Washington has been part of this season. Both teams played furious defense, digging hard attacks, and flying far and wide to keep the ball in play. At one point, UW libero Cassie Strickland launched herself like a fullback leaping over an offensive line for a goal-line touchdown. In both rallies, Washington won the point.

McLaughlin smiled when asked about those two points. “Mike Normand, one of my mentors, always taught us that great teams win the long rallies. That’s something I’ve been preaching since I’ve been coaching.”

Nelson, too, grinned at the memory of those two long points. If she had been all business before the match, there was a hint of tears in her eyes once it was over. “Final college match here, in front of my loved ones. It was kinda cool.”

Saturday, October 11, 2014

Saturday, October 4, 2014

College | Washington volleyball bounces all the way back to beat UCLA

In a thriller, Huskies win the final three sets behind Vansant, Sybeldon

#4 Washington def. #20 UCLA 3-2 (18-25, 24-26, 25-17, 25-20, 15-10)
  • New Mexico St @ Seattle U | Sat, Oct 4 | 1PM
  • #4 Washington @ Oregon State | Fri, Oct 10 | 6PM | Pac-12 Networks
  • #4 Washington @ #11 Oregon | Sun, Oct 12 | 11AM | Pac-12 Networks

Thursday, October 2, 2014

College | Washington vs. USC was a volleyball mismatch

Trojans aren’t yet able to piece together their puzzle
#4 Washington def. #19 Southern Cal 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-19)
  • Texas-Pan Am @ Seattle U | Thu, Oct 2 | 6PM
  • #20 UCLA @ #4 Washington | Fri, Oct 3 | 7:00PM | [no TV]
  • New Mexico St @ Seattle U | Sat, Oct 4 | 1PM

Monday, September 29, 2014

College | Washington volleyball one of only five remaining undefeated teams

Stanford and Oregon also unbeaten; Scambray repeats as Freshman of the Week
  • #19 Southern Cal @ #4 Washington | Wed, Oct 1 | 7:30PM
  • Texas-Pan Am @ Seattle U | Thu, Oct 2 | 6PM
  • #20 UCLA @ #4 Washington | Fri, Oct 3 | 7:00PM
  • New Mexico St @ Seattle U | Sat, Oct 4 | 1PM

Thursday, September 25, 2014

College | Washington volleyball’s Sybeldon and Scambray jump high, hit hard

Power hitters key win in Pac-12 opener
#4 Washington def. Washington State 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-15)
  • Western Washington @ Seattle Pacific | Thu, Sept. 25 | 7:30PM
  • #4 Washington @ California | Fri, Sept. 26 | 8PM | Pac-12 Networks
  • Simon Fraser @ Seattle Pacific | Sat, Sept. 27 | 7:30PM

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

National Team | Courtney Thompson leads Team USA to World Championships opening victory

Washington Hall of Fame setter serves nine straight points in turning point
  • USA def. Mexico 3-1 (19-25, 25-11, 25-20, 25-14)
  • USA vs. Kazakhstan | Wed, Sept. 24 | 1:30AM (Pacific) |
  • USA vs. Netherlands | Thu, Sept. 25 | 11AM (Pacific) |

Saturday, September 20, 2014

College | Washington volleyball’s amazing streaks continue

Five sets? No problem, as Huskies refuse to fold
#5 Washington def. #4 Wisconsin 3-2 (22-25, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16, 15-12)
  • Washington State @ #5 Washington | Wed, Sept. 24 | 7:30PM
  • #5 Washington @ California | Fri, Sept. 26 | 8:00PM

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

College | Volleyball stars align this week in Seattle

All-Americans and rising talent on display at UW and SPU
  • #10 USC vs. #4 Wisconsin @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Thursday, 9/18 | 5:30PM
  • Maryland @ #5 Washington | Thursday, 9/18 | 8PM
  • Western Oregon @ Seattle Pacific | Thursday, 9/18 | 7PM
  • #10 USC vs. Maryland @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Friday, 9/19 | 5:30PM
  • #4 Wisconsin @ #5 Washington | Friday, 9/19 | 8PM

Monday, September 15, 2014

College | Washington volleyball among dwindling list of undefeated

Several teams fall from the unbeaten ranks
  • #10 USC vs. #4 Wisconsin @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Thursday, 9/18 | 5:30PM
  • Maryland @ #5 Washington | Thursday, 9/18 | 8PM
  • #10 USC vs. Maryland @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Friday, 9/19 | 5:30PM
  • #4 Wisconsin @ #5 Washington | Friday, 9/19 | 8PM

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