Saturday, November 22, 2014

College | Tia Scambray is passing fancy in Washington volleyball win

Arizona targets freshman outside hitter to no avail
#5 Washington def. #13 Arizona 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-19)
  • #22 Arizona State @ #5 Washington | Sun, Nov 23 | 11AM
  • #1 Stanford @ #5 Washington | Wed, Nov 26 | 5PM

Washington's Tia Scambray (20) with one of her dozens of passes during a 3-0 win against Arizona
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Arizona won the toss and elected to serve. The whistle blew, and Wildcat setter Penina Snuka sent the first serve directly at Washington’s Tia Scambray. On Arizona’s next rotation, Elizabeth Inch also served at Scambray. When it was Taylor Arizobal’s turn, Scambray was again the target.

Washington's Tia Scambray, Lianna Sybeldon and
Courtney Schwan celebrate a point against Arizona
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
The match lasted three sets, a 3-0 Washington win. For the night, Arizona players served 58 times. Each time, they three primary options: serve to libero Cassie Strickland, to outside hitter Krista Vansant or to Scambray, a freshman outside hitter. Almost every time, Wildcat head coach Dave Rubio directed his team to aim for Scambray.

“We serve Tia every day in practice,” said Washington coach Jim McLaughlin. “She can weather that pressure.”

And, make no mistake: there was plenty of pressure. Most teams, including Washington, tend to serve at the opponents’ top hitter, hoping to disrupt her approach and eventually wear her down. For Washington’s opponents, the target is usually Vansant. But last night, Scambray was squarely in the Wildcats’ crosshairs.

For UW to bounce back after its first two losses of the season, passing would be key. Against both Colorado and Utah, UW’s offense was unbalanced, with Vansant taking 65 swings against the Buffalos and 76 against the Utes. This week, said McLaughlin, the Huskies changed their practice sessions to focus on getting more balls to the middles, Lianna Sybeldon and Melanie Wade. For that to happen, setters Katy Beals and Bailey Tanner would need to receive quality passes. Arizona’s strategy, then, was to relentlessly pick on Scambray, hoping to get into her head and degrade her passing.

It didn’t work.

“Tia is one of the toughest people I’ve ever been around,” said McLaughlin. “She’s not afraid to be on the edge of her ability or to feel discomfort.”

Washington's Courtney Schwan (4) points to setter Bailey Tanner (13) after Tanner's assist on a Schwan kill
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

There was unrelated discomfort last night, as the Huskies played without starting opposite hitter Crissy Jones. In early warmups, about four hours before the match, Jones stepped on a teammate’s foot, twisting her left ankle. McLaughlin turned to Jones’ fellow freshman, Courtney Schwan.

“I was definitely anxious,” said Schwan. “But coach always says it’s good to feel nervous before you play.”

Both of Schwan’s parents are in law enforcement. She texted her mom at work, who told her not to worry and to “just go out and play ball.” Teammates Scambray and Strickland pulled her aside and advised her to play just as she does in practice. All that support helped her focus.

“She’s a really level, even-keeled kid,” McLaughlin said. “There’s no ebb and flow.”

Washington's Crissy Jones wears a protective boot on her injured left ankle during a timeout
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Schwan was, in fact, almost all flow. She finished with 9 kills and no errors on 15 swings, for a team leading .600 hitting percentage. In the second set, Schwan, Vansant, Sybeldon and Kaleigh Nelson had a combined 13 kills and no errors on 18 swings (.722).

“It was definitely nerve-wracking,” Schwann said. “I was very excited to get in. But I wasn’t happy about the way it happened.”

  • McLaughlin says Jones’ injury may not be serious. “It was not a high sprain,” he said. Trainers will evaluate her recovery day-to-day, and there’s a chance she could be ready in time for Wednesday's Stanford match.
  • With Washington leading 10-8 in the first set, Arizona’s talented setter Penina Snuka slammed into the scorer’s table while trying to save a ball. She received treatment for a knee injury and never returned to the match. Snuka, this week’s Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, was replaced by junior transfer (from Weber State) Whitney Hunt, who did an admirable job running the Wildcat offense.

Arizona players surround teammate Penina Snuka after she injured her knee in the first set
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
  • Announced attendance for the Arizona match was 3,369. That’s almost precisely the Huskies’ average for its 8 home conference matches so far this season. Interesting to note that, over the past decade, Washington volleyball trails only football and men’s basketball among all the school’s sports attendance. Last season, for example, UW women’s basketball drew an average of 1,795 despite continuing to attract far more mainstream media attention than volleyball.
  • Stanford defeated Utah 3-0 last night to remain undefeated. Washington is 15-2 in Pac-12 play, solidly in second place. With Oregon’s 3-0 victory over UCLA and Colorado’s sweep of California, there is a three-way tie for third, at 10-7, between Arizona, Oregon and Colorado.
  • USC, which came within a whisker of last season’s Final Four (losing at home in 5 to Washington), is in real danger of missing this year’s tournament. After losing 3-1 to Oregon State, the Trojans are now 15-14, with three road matches remaining: Oregon, Arizona and UCLA. Teams with a sub-.500 record are not eligible for postseason.
  • If you follow Volleyblog Seattle, you know we have a soft spot for the Sugar Bears of Central Arkansas. After losing 5 of last season’s starters to graduation, and 2 of this year’s starters to injury, coach David McFatrich’s team started the season 3-6, losing to, among others, Oregon, Ohio State and Florida State. This morning, Central Arkansas defeated Texas A&M Corpus Christi to qualify for Sunday’s championship match of the Southland Conference tournament. The Sugar Bears, now 20-11, will play Northwestern State, with the winner getting the conference’s automatic NCAA bid.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Monday, November 10, 2014

College | Washington volleyball’s “modest” setters strive not to be “chicken”

Katy Beals and Bailey Tanner have big impact while garnering little attention
#2 Washington def. #11 Oregon 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-20)
#2 Washington def. Oregon State 3-0 (25-17, 25-15, 25-15)
  • #2 Washington @ #22 Colorado | Thu, Nov 13 | 5PM
  • #2 Washington @ Utah | Sat, Nov 15 | 6PM

Thursday, November 6, 2014

College | Top 5 reasons to see Oregon @ Washington volleyball in person this Friday

Ducks visit Seattle for first time in two years; have done damage in the past
  • #11 Oregon at #2 Washington | Fri, Nov 7 | 7:30PM
  • Oregon State at #2 Washington | Sun, Nov 9 | 5PM

A recent Volleyblog Seattle post (Washington volleyball on record run, will fans respond?) drew a torrent of reader comments. As new television contracts demand live volleyball on scattered dates and times throughout the week, many readers longed for the return of Friday/Saturday home matches.

Washington's Krista Vansant (16) attacks against Oregon during an October 12, 2014 3-1 victory in Eugene
-photo courtesy Shutter Geeks 
This Friday night, Washington volleyball is back home against rival Oregon. And, as we detailed in that blog post, the undefeated second-ranked Huskies deserve to be the hottest ticket in town.

The match will be televised, but not on the Pac-12 Networks. You need to subscribe to ESPNU (different than ESPN or ESPN2) to hear Karch Kiraly and Sam Gore call the match. Otherwise, here are five reasons to attend the match in person:

5. POTENTIAL RECORD-BREAKER. The Huskies are 23-0. A win against Oregon sets Washington’s all-time record for wins to start the season. In both 2010 and 2012, the Ducks handed the Huskies the season’s first defeat. In 2009, an Oregon five-set victory in Seattle cost UW a share of the Pac-10 title.
4. LIZ BRENNER. Probably your last chance to see the Ducks’ remarkable outside hitter in person. A Pac-12 volleyball standout throughout her four-year career, she’s played FIVE varsity sports at Oregon: indoor volleyball, sand volleyball, track & field, softball and basketball.
3. JIM MOORE. The Oregon head coach puts on a sideline show like no other. If you attend the match in person, you’ll likely see him have animated conversations with the officials and—sometimes—his players. Moore doesn’t hide either his emotions or his opinions.
2. SEEKING REVENGE. This is Oregon’s first Seattle visit since the epic five-set match in 2012, won by the Huskies 3-2 (26-24, 16-25, 21-25, 32-30, 25-23). Thanks to the new Pac-12 schedule, one home opponent is eliminated each season, and 2013 was Oregon’s turn. The Ducks lost FOURTEEN match points in that November 16, 2012 contest, leaving some Oregon players grumbling about home-town officiating. In volleyball, however, questionable calls invariably balance out, particularly in long matches. And don’t forget that Washington star Krista Vansant left the match for good at the start of the fourth set with an ankle injury, leaving it to Gabbi Parker, Lianna Sybeldon and others to pull off the heroics.
1. IT’S THE OREGON DUCKS. Enough said.

A few more volleyball attendance numbers ...

11/07/14: CORRECTION: Chart corrected to reflect that 2012 match against Nebraska was in Omaha, not Seattle.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

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

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