Sunday, October 9, 2011

Breaking Down UW’s Colorado/Utah sweep

It was getting ugly.
It was the third set; Utah’s Chelsey Schofield blocked a Bianca Rowland slide attack, knotting the score at 4. During the next rally, Barfield and setter Evan Sanders failed to connect. Barfield pushed a weak shot across the net, extending the rally.
But Utah couldn’t convert, opening the door for a Krista Vansant kill.
It was Kelcey Dunaway’s turn to serve. Last season, like this season, she was third on a middle blocker depth chart that has room for just two starters. But last season, she was a designated server, notching 25 aces, second-best (tonow-graduated Kindra Carlson) on the team. This season, she stood mostly on the sidelines, as Bianca Rowland stayed in to serve.
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But the night before, against Colorado, Rowland missed three serves. And in the first two set against Utah, she missed three more.
“And Kelcey came up to me,” said Washington Coach Jim McLaughlin after the match, “and said, ‘Jim, I’m ready if you need me.’ And I love it when somebody says that.”
“I know that my serve is just as good as it was last season,” Dunaway said, “and I knew it had actually gotten better.”
From 12 feet behind the service line, Dunaway tossed the ball—not too high, no too far—and hit it squarely in the middle, with her right arm as high as it could reach. The ball sailed without any rotation, and knuckled to the upper arms of Utah’s Morgan Odale. The near-perfect float serve was almost impossible to pass, and the Utes were instantly out of system. They gift-wrapped an easy return to the Huskies, and Vansant soon had her second kill in a row. The score was 6-4 Washington.
Dunaway’s second serve was the same, and so was the result: Three in a row for Vansant. Then four in a row. Then six Vansant kills out of seven points. In all, Dunaway served nine in a row, forcing Utah to spend both of its timeouts. By the time the Utes finally scored on a tip, it was 13-5, and the match was all but over.
Kelcey Dunaway serves against Utah during a nine-point second-set run
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
“It was nice,” said Dunaway, “I miss serving. I really like it.”
* * *
Every team in the Pac-12 attracts top-shelf athletes … and that includes the two newcomers, Colorado and Utah. The Utes played good defense, holding the Huskies to a .183 average for the match, a number inflated by UW’s .400 clip in the third set.
But both Colorado and Utah committed a lot of errors, many of them unforced. Colorado had 28 hitting errors and nine more at the service line; Utah had 21 miscues on the attack plus 11 (often ugly) service errors.

Kylin Muñoz, fighting off recurring knee pain which has bothered her since her days at Monroe High School, had 26 kills for the weekend, hitting .394 Friday night. Kelly Holford, playing the back row in Muñoz’s slot, went from zero digs against light-hitting Colorado to 13 against the big arms of Utah.
“[Holford] just provided a vibe,” said McLaughlin. “There’s good energy when she’s out there.”
As always, Summer Ross’ contributions were not fully obvious in the box score. She hit negative for the two matches (combined 6 kills, 7 errors on 34 swings) but had 15 digs Saturday night, including a couple more for the highlight reel. Her huge block in the second set at the end of the longest rally of the night put the Huskies up 24-23, after they had trailed 21-23.
“That,” said McLaughlin, “was the turning point.”
Utah tied the score at 24, then 25, then 26. With UW leading 27-26, Ross tossed the ball, hit it smack center, and floated a serve that died as if it had been shot. Set point. And Utah went into the locker room down 0-2. And any hope the Utes had of a comeback ended at the start of set three, when Kelcey Dunaway told her coach she was ready play.
Washington Huskies celebrate Summer Ross' ace to win set two against Utah, 28-26
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]

1 comment:

  1. Hi Jack,

    Thanks for this great post, and this great blog! You are really adding a lot to volleyball awareness and knowledge.

    I'm curious, though, why you didn't address (I thought I saw you mention it, but can't find it again) Jenni Nogueras finally being allowed to play the last set against Colorado. It's no secret that Evan is not Jenna Haglund, and while she's often done OK and even well, she has not had the consistency that we were used to with Jenna.

    We get to the games early enough to watch the setters practice with Leslie, and have not observed (via an unschooled eye) a significant difference between the skills of Evan and Jenni. Given that, it's been mystifying why Jenni has not been allowed to play more often, especially given that no player is invincible and there is a strong likelihood of at some point needing an experienced backup. Since it's impossible to gain experience without actually playing, it's been frustrating as a fan (and undoubtedly as a player) to see the sets in which the UW has built up big leads continue to be played by the starters.

    It seemed that Jenni did fine in the set, although she may have made a few mistakes, but who doesn't? The notable increase in verbal interaction between the setter and the other players during that last set was welcome and fun to see.

    Could you please comment on this, and, since there doesn't seem to be a place on your site to offer general comments, please let me say that I find your blog to offer valuable information that the official website should be presenting but doesn't. I appreciate your viewpoint and experience, and am puzzled to see the lack of comments and discussion here in response to your insights and research.

    We are lucky to have Coach McLaughlin and his staff in our area, and I always enjoy hearing him speak about what he's thinking; I wish he would do it more.



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