Sunday, October 23, 2011

How did Oregon beat Washington?

EUGENE—Washington, it seemed, had the second set in the bag. Leading Oregon 22-16, they appeared poised to amend for letting the first set slip away, despite a boatload of Oregon errors.
And then the wheels fell off.
Washington's Krista Vansant digs an attack as Kylin Munoz transitions
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
The Ducks sent set after set to the outside, where Washington’s block was repeatedly just a moment too late. Kylin Muñoz struggled, taking cross-court swings that were too easy for the Ducks to dig. Oregon’s Alaina Bergsma swung without fear, time and again hitting winners. Five times the Huskies had set point; five times they let it slip away. At 28-all, Oregon got a lucky break on an awkward Ariana Williams swing. A serve ace followed, and the Ducks led two sets to none. They never looked back.
Washington coach Jim McLaughlin during a time out
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
Washington played its first-ever match in new Matthew Knight Arena just one night after an inspired 3-0 sweep of Oregon State. They faced an Oregon team that had been reeling, barely beating Washington State after losing five of its previous six, including a stinker in Seattle. The Ducks season was slipping away.
How, then, did Oregon hand Washington such a painful setback, its fourth loss of the season?
The Huskies are one of the best blocking teams in the nation. Their game plan was to bring their outside hitters in, to help stuff quick sets to the middle. Although they out-blocked the Ducks 12-4, they missed opportunities for many more, and Washington coach Jim McLaughlin shouldered much of the blame.
“I didn’t like our defensive plan,” McLaughlin admitted after the match. “We were in protecting the quicks; they didn’t set a lot of quicks, and they beat us at the pins. I think we should have just made ‘em beat us quick.”
McLaughlin did single out the play of middle blocker Lauren Barfield, who left the Oregon State match the night before with a tweaked ankle. Against Oregon, she tallied five kills with no errors and shared in three blocks.
“I was happy with Lauren, how she came out and played. She was sore, but she went for it and played hard.”
Washington Libero Jenna Orlandini
confers with defensive specialist
Kelly Holford (3)
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
The Huskies had plenty of quality serve receives and digs, particularly by Jenna Orlandini and Summer Ross. Too often, however, Evan Sanders put up predictable sets. The Ducks had a tough time getting termination blocks, but they got plenty of touches, allowing their back row to keep the ball in play.
“We gotta mix it up,” McLaughlin said, “and we gotta use all 30 feet. And we were mostly left side tonight.”
He was particularly unhappy that Sanders rarely connected with Bianca Rowland, except on slides. Without much of a back row or right side threat, Oregon wasn’t often fooled.
“We didn’t have enough variety, and they were kind of able to dig us.”

When the Huskies transition the way they want to, their hitters can pound with anyone. With leads late in both of the first two sets, they wasted many chances to close the deal. In particular, Muñoz couldn’t get the ball to hit the floor; Krista Vansant was only slightly better.
“We’re creating opportunities, but we’re not finishing,” McLaughlin said. We’ve just gotta be better defense to offense transition.”
Oregon's Alaina Bergsma (2) celebrates
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
To be fair, there were several instances when Vansant made a spectacular dig, then ran back into position to make herself available for the attack. Yet, too often, Sanders passed up other options, or the hitters ran too far underneath the ball at the point of
“And that’s a little bit of the hitter and some of the setter. And, so, that’s a point of emphasis we’ve got to address,” said McLaughlin.

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