Friday, October 14, 2011

Pac-12 weekend preview

They are, without doubt, the two highest-profile matches in the nation this week: Washington's visit to the Bay Area.

On paper, the UW/Cal match Friday night is the bigger deal. Last season, Cal swept the Huskies home and away, then eliminated them at Hec Ed Pavilion in the Elite 8. The Golden Bears eventually advanced to the national championship match, where they lost to Penn State.

The Bears still have the multi-talented and eminently-likable Tarah Murrey; they still have Kat Brown and Robin Rostratter. What they don't have is last season's national player of the year, now-graduated Carli Lloyd. Lloyd was not just a great setter, she drove Washington crazy with setter dumps and attacks. In two conference matches against UW, she had a combined 10 kills on 19 swings with no errors. It will be interesting to see if the Bears miss that weapon this season.

No team has defeated Jim McLaughlin-coached Washington teams as often as Stanford. Many of the losses have been by the smallest of margins; when these two teams play, serve and serve receive usually decides the match. This year, the Huskies are one of the national leaders (#5) in aces per set.

Washington Huskies huddle
[Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann]
Only once have the Huskies swept both of these teams in the Bay Area: in 2005 when Washington won the national title. Can they do it again? While history suggests no, we're gonna guess yes, both in four sets.

Oregon's early success is quickly fading, and its matches in LA could either make it a contender or a pretender. Here's guessing the latter, in 0-3, 0-3 fashion.

Arizona will likely pick up two wins in the Rockies; ASU, Utah and Colorado will battle to avoid the very bottom of the standings. We'll say Utah beats ASU, and ASU beats the Buffaloes.

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