Sunday, September 30, 2012

NCAA | How the Top 20 fared

How the Top 20 fared, September 24-30, 2012

Another busy week …
  • St. Mary’s (8-7) hands #11 BYU (15-1) its first loss of the season … just one day after the Gaels also knocked off #18 Pepperdine.
  • Pepperdine had a bad week: the Waves also lost to Santa Clara
  • With BYU’s loss, there are only two undefeated Division 1 schools remaining: #2 Oregon and #5 Washington. Those two teams meet in Eugene a week from Saturday.
  • #1 Penn State absolutely crushed #10 Minnesota, including 25-8 in the second set.
  • Both #3 USC and #4 UCLA lost … both to Washington.
  • #13 Purdue keeps on winning … which could be significant down the line for Washington’s RPI (since the Huskies beat the Boilermakers 3-0)

USC's Katie Fuller (22) attacks against the Washington block of Amanda Gil (1) and Krista Vansant
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Pac 12 | What we learned from Washington’s win against USC

#5 Washington 3, #3 USC 0 (25-23, 26-24, 25-21)
next: Friday, October 5 | 7:30PM | #5 Washington @ Utah

The match had barely begun. Washington’s Krista Vansant connected on a kill off a USC block attempt, giving the Huskies an early 3-2 lead in the first set.

As Washington rotated with the side-out, hitter Kaleigh Nelson replaced setter Katy Beals. But—for the first time this season—setter Jenni Nogueras did not sub for hitter Kylin Muñoz.

As Southern Cal would soon find out, that decision was one of the lessons learned from the Huskies’ 3-0 Trojan sweep.

Washington's Kylin Munoz steps to the service line
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Friday, September 28, 2012

Pac-12 | Start time, Promotions and Traffic Alerts for USC @ UW

#3 USC @ #5 Washington: Tonight, 6pm

Krista Vansant (16) and Kelcey Dunaway (2)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Tonight’s Pac-12 showdown between #3 Southern Cal and #5 Washington will start an hour earlier than usual. First serve is at 6:00pm.

Several promotions are on tap tonight:
  • “Blackout” Night: All Washington fans are encouraged to wear black
  • Football Stub Discounts: Volleyball tickets are $3.00 with a ticket stub from last night’s Stanford @ Washington football match
  • Camp Night: Admission is free to those who attended either a volleyball or a gymnastics camp this past summer at the University of Washington. Campers should wear or bring their camp t-shirt.

From University of Washington’s Athletic Department Event Management:

Construction of the University of Washington Station pedestrian/bike bridge construction has started. In order to build the bridge the contractor will need to close traffic lanes and sidewalks on Montlake Blvd after 7:00pm tonight.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Pac 12 | What we learned from Washington’s win against UCLA

#5 Washington 3, #4 UCLA 2 (22-25, 30-28, 19-25, 28-26, 16-14)
next: #3 USC @ #5 Washington | Friday, September 28 | 6pm [note early start time]

Jim McLaughlin exchanged a mid-court post-match handshake with UCLA coach Mike Sealy, then strode toward the locker room tunnel.

But as the Washington head coach passed the student section, the already- raucous cheers grew louder. McLaughlin turned and pumped his fists. When students howled with appreciation, McLaughlin’s grin stretched wider, and he blew the cheering section a kiss.

Washington  coach Jim McLaughlin salutes the crowd
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Jack Hamann
“This is a big game,” he said moments later. “These are the games that I came to Washington for. And these are the games that I recruited kids for. So, yeah, I just love this stuff.”

Volleyblog Seattle video:
·         match point
·         Jim McLaughlin press conference highlights

Make no mistake, though: McLaughlin knew darned well that this match could have gone either way.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Pac 12 | First big test: Bruins and Huskies square off in Seattle

Okay, sports fans: The NFL ruled it a touchdown, the Seahawks beat the Packers, and we can all move on to the OTHER big sports story of the week.

When you pick tomorrow’s paper off your doorstep, Seattle Times contributor and Friend of the Blog Terry Wood has an advance look at the big Pac-12 volleyball showdowns this week at Alaska Airlines Arena (it’s also available online, but how will you wrap your fish?)

As usual, some of Terry’s gems were squeezed by other sports news, so he once again shares the full version with Volleyblog Seattle’s loyal readers …

Special to The Seattle Times

Interesting: In the latest college volleyball coaches’ poll, Washington ranks fifth in the country—and just fourth among Pac-12 teams.

This week the No. 5 Huskies (11-0, 2-0 Pac-12) get a shot at the No. 4 and No. 3 teams, UCLA and USC, in their toughest challenges so far in their month-old season.

Washington coach Jim McLaughlin
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
The Bruins (9-2, 1-1), the defending NCAA champions, visit Alaska Airlines Arena Wednesday at 7 p.m. USC (13-1, 1-1), a Final Four participant last year, plays at UW Friday at 6 and, following football’s “blackout” theme, UW is asking fans to wear black that night. The Pac-12 Network will air both matches live.

Pac-12 | How Washington and UCLA compare

#4 UCLA @ #5 Washington | Wednesday, September 25 | 7pm

Last season, UCLA rolled into Seattle with a 9-1 record. The Bruins had scored impressive road wins against Long Beach State, Ohio State, Hawai’i, USC and Washington State. No one realized at the time that new coach Mike Sealy would lead UCLA to the 2011 National Title.

Washington, on the other hand, had looked terrible the night before, swept aside by USC to suffer its first loss of the season. In crunch time, Washington had been outscored a combined 11-1 at the end of each of the sets.

But, the next night against the Bruins, it was Washington that prevailed, in decisive fashion. As we reported at the time, the Huskies served big-time, passed nails and eliminated errors. Kylin Muñoz had one of the biggest matches of her career (13 kills, .429) and then-freshman Krista Vansant overcame early jitters to contribute ten big kills.

In particular, the first frame was a set to remember, as 74% of all points that set came from successful attacks (19 kills for Washington, 18 kills for UCLA). In the end, it was a 3-0 Washington sweep.

UCLA's Kelly Reeves (L) passes during UCLA's 2011 loss at Washington
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Monday, September 24, 2012

NCAA | Washington volleyball stuck at #5 in week 6 coaches’ poll

Washington (11-0) gets three first-place votes and is one of 5 Pac-12 teams in the top 7

Five Pac-12 teams dominate the weekly coaches’ poll is conducted by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA).
  • If you’re a regular reader, you know that we’ve been saying for weeks now that coaches have been underestimating Oregon. Even after the Ducks beat Ohio State on the road, they only moved up when other teams lost, and not on their own merit. Now, it seems, their dominating sweep against USC in Los Angeles has belatedly caught coaches’ attention, with 16 first-place votes.
  • Even with one loss (at a Chicago tournament to Oregon State), Penn State is a deserving #1. The Nittany Lions have impressive victories against Louisville, Stanford and Texas.
  • Hawai’i struggled mightily this week in conference play; BYU should be ranked ahead of them.
  • Wouldn’t it have been sweet if the Washington @ Penn State match could have been played two weeks ago as originally scheduled? It was cancelled when the Pac-12 changed Washington’s conference schedule, but what a great showdown that might have been.
  • University of Washington fans
    -Volleyblog Seattle photo by Jack Hamann
  • This is Washington’s third straight week at #5. If Huskies fans don’t like the fact that their undefeated team still trails USC and UCLA in the polls, then this is the week to put up or shut up: The Bruins will be in Seattle Wednesday, followed by the Trojans on Friday.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Pac-12 | Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Five

Pac-12 play begins with plenty of drama.

The conference’s top five teams are a combined 54-5, and held five of the top seven spots in last week’s national polls. Look for Ducks and/or Huskies to crack this week’s top three, and for the Bruins, Trojans and Cardinal to stick around in the top eight.

Washington fan, Alaska Airlines Arena
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Jack Hamann

The Pac-12's biggest matches the coming week are in Seattle:
  • Wednesday: UCLA @ Washington
  • Friday: USC @ Washington

Here’s how we rank 'em …

NCAA | How the Top 20 fared

How the Top 20 fared, September 17-23, 2012

Crazy numbers this week:
  • Number two beat number one and number four beat number three.
  • Number two would have become number one, except it lost to number seven.
  • Numbers ten, twelve, eighteen and twenty also lost

Washington's Jenna Orladinia
-Volleyblog Seattle photo
by Leslie Hamann

And you thought YOU worked hard:
  • Seattle University has played six five-set matches this season, including the last five in a row. The Redhawks are 3-3 in five-set matches in 2012.
  • #17 San Diego lost a set to San Francisco 33-35. The next night they won a set against Santa Clara 32-30.
  • #10 Louisville won its first two sets against Notre Dame 25-16, 25-16 … then went on to lose the fifth set 3-15. It was only Louisville’s second loss of the season.
  • #8 Hawai’i played its first road matches of the season—and its first matches in the Big West Conference. The Wahine Rainbow went 3-0 this week, but were pushed to five sets by both Cal State Northridge and Cal State Fullerton.
  • Five teams fell from the ranks of the unbeaten this week, including #2 USC (0-3 to #7 Oregon), #12 Kansas State (0-3 to Oklahoma), Michigan State (2-3 to #16 Purdue); South Carolina (1-3 to Auburn then 1-3 to #20 Tennessee) and Northwestern (1-3  to Wisconsin, then 1-3 to #11 Minnesota).
  • Only three undefeated teams remain (of 327 Division 1 schools): #5 Washington (11-0), #7 Oregon (11-0) and #14 BYU (14-0)

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington’s win over Arizona

#5 Washington 3, Arizona 1 (25-16, 25-23, 18-25, 25-23)
Washington, Oregon and BYU are the only three remaining undefeated D1 teams

Playing time is earned, not presumed.

That’s Washington coach Jim McLaughlin’s mantra, and today it had to be ringing in Gabbi Parker’s and Cassie Strickland’s ears.

Parker, a junior, has been Washington’s primary OH2 this season. But this afternoon in Tucson, McLaughlin started Strickland, a freshman.

Cassie Strickland
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Both players are emotional, both on the court and off. Against the Wildcats, each rode that emotional roller-coaster throughout a tense Washington victory.

Strickland started the match with a service error, the first of many. Her powerful jump serve is an all-or-nothing weapon, and today she fired mostly blanks behind the service line.

Parker stayed on the bench until the Huskies had a comfortable 19-11 first set lead. Huskies hitters—including Strickland—had been on fire, committing just two errors and hitting .464 for the set (to just .103 for Arizona). Parker responded with two kills of her own, including the set winner.

In the second set, Strickland again got the nod, delivering two early kills. Parker finally entered with UW trailing 15-16, just before freshman setter Katy Beals served three consecutive aces to put the Huskies ahead 20-19. After a relative quiet first set, Kylin Muñoz erupted, connecting on  6 kills. Krista Vansant, who had three kills in the first set, also added six in the second.

After the break, Strickland was still the starter, recording a block, a kill and another service error, before giving way to Parker with Washington trailing 11-15. With Arizona’s Taylor Arizobal connecting at will, Parker’s one kill and one error contributed to Washington’s anemic .156 average for the set, and an 18-25 loss—only the second time the Huskies dropped a set all season.

Finally, McLaughlin started Parker in the fourth. And if McLaughlin had hoped to light a fire, it seemed to work.

Parker’s first kill made it 2-3, her second tied the score at 4. Back-to-back kills pulled the Huskies ahead 12-11. Her fifth kill made the score 20-18, then she teamed with Amanda Gil for a double block to make it 21-18.

Then the wheels almost fell off.

After two consecutive Parker attack errors, McLaughlin called time out. But back on the court, Parker made it three errors in a row.

McLaughlin did not, however, bring out the hook. Parker stayed in as the teams exchanged side outs until Washington held a 23-22 advantage. Only then did McLaughlin decide to give Strickland another chance to serve. The Huskies won the rally, but at match point: Strickland’s final service error, her fifth of the contest. It took Muñoz to send the Huskies home happy with the match winner, her 14th kill (.370).

Vansant led all hitters with 15 kills on just 3 errors and 39 swings (.308); Kaleigh Nelson had another stellar match with 8 kills and 1 error on 21 attempts (.333). Despite her service errors (and one ace), Strickland had five kills and no errors.

As McLaughlin gets ready for UCLA this Wednesday and USC on Friday, you can be sure that every player will realize they have a shot at starting … or at sitting on the bench. Other coaches may prefer lineup stability, but McLaughlin believes competition brings out the best in his players, both as athletes and as students.

Pac-12 | #1, #2 & #3 all lose … but #5 Huskies not on TV

#5 Washington @ Arizona | Saturday, September 22 | 5pm
no TV, no radio

Under the glare of television cameras, the nation’s top three teams all lost this weekend:
  • #1 UCLA lost to #2 USC
  • #2 USC lost to #7 Oregon
  • #3 Nebraska lost to #4 Penn St

 And so … on the one hand, it might not be such bad news for #5 Washington that its 5pm (Pacific) match against Arizona will not be televised.

Washington's Lianna Sybeldon
-courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography
On the other hand, it really is not good news, because great volleyball teams should not be overlooked by the networks. If Washington can beat Arizona, the Huskies could be ranked anywhere from #2 to #4 … and there’s no way a team ranked that high—one of only three unbeaten teams in Division I!—should be left off the schedule.

With the launch of the Pac-12 Networks (P12Ns), most conference matches are now available (even as most nonconference matches were disappointingly not.) And, during this first week, the P12Ns impressively upgraded their coverage with the addition of three volleyball broadcast veterans (and former Olympians):
  • Paul Sunderland’s play-by-play of the marquee USC/Oregon match was smooth and professional.
  • Chris Marlowe handled Stanford’s struggle to beat Utah in Salt Lake City. Marlowe—who has called thousands of matches—knows the sport, even if he doesn’t always avoid clichés.
  • Another experienced broadcaster, Holly McPeak, was part of the UCLA/Oregon State telecast. She is often a lightning rod for volleyball fans; they either love or decidedly don’t love her analysis of indoor volleyball.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington’s win over Washington State

#5 Washington 3, Washington State 0 (25-20, 27-29, 25-14, 27-25)
next: Saturday, September 22 | #5 Washington @ Arizona

SEATTLE—Jenni Nogueras grew up in Puerto Rico, speaking Spanish. At the University of Washington, her major is English.

So what language does she speak at home?

“She speaks Spanish,” says teammate—and roommate—Kaleigh Nelson. “And I love how it sounds.”

Last night, however, it was Nogueras who loved how Nelson sounded. In Washington’s often-tense 3-1 victory over Washington State, it was the communication between roommates that made the difference.

Amanda Gil (1), Jenni Nogueras (9), Kaleigh Nelson (6) and teammates celebrate match point
-photo courtesy of Shutter Geeks Photography

Nelson finished the night with 16 kills and 4 errors on just 24 swings, a sizzling .500 average. Her big performance was never more evident than in the waning moments of the match.

With the fourth set score tied at 22, Washington’s star hitter Krista Vansant (16 kills/3 errors/45 attempts/.289) got a big kill, then moved off the front line and back to serve. On the ensuing rally, Gabbi Parker hit the ball long; on the next rally, Nelson did the same. Suddenly, the Cougars had set point.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Pac-12 | Pac-12 Power Rankings: Week Four

Pac-12 goes 30-1 in final week of nonconference play. Now the real games begin.

There will be losses …

Pac-12 schools simply roared through the preseason, winning 10 of every 12 matches played (.833).

Now that conference contests are upon us, the victory rate will drop to 6 of every 12, and contenders will slowly separate from pretenders. No matter what, however, the conference RPI should get a boost come tournament time.

The first and last week of conference play is rivalry week, and that has probably never meant so much. The biggest matches:
  • #1 UCLA @ #2 USC: The top-two teams in the national polls; will Galen Center attract more Trojan fans than Bruin fans?
  • Washington State @ #5 Washington: Huskies haven’t dropped a set, and the Cougs keep holding opponents to single digits. Both teams serve and block with the best.
  • Oregon State @ #8 Oregon: ESPN ranks Oregon third in the nation; Oregon State beat Penn State
  • California @ #6 Stanford : In any other season, this might have been the match of the week. Cal has a lot of returning talent; someone is going to underestimate them.

Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week Arica Nassar
-Oregon State Sports Inofrmation
 Here’s how we count 'em down … 

Pac-12 | How Washington matches up with Washington State

Tuesday, September 18 | 7pm: Washington State @ #5 Washington
TV: Pac-12 Network (Kelli Tennant and Krista Blunk)

Although Washington/Washington State qualifies as a rivalry, the Huskies have won 18 of the past 20 meetings, including the last 10 in Seattle. That said, the Cougars look dangerous.

WSU’s current nine-match win streak includes mostly middle-tier teams, but Wazzu has shown it can take care of business. In 14 of the 41 sets it’s played, the Cougars have held opponents under 15 points; five times they’ve kept it to 10 or less. At the D1 level, that’s enough to make you sit up straight and pay attention.
Washington State's Jaicee Harris (R)
-Washington State Sports Information

Both Washington and WSU excel at two important skills: serving and blocking. It makes sense, since great serves usually yield poor passes which, in turn, limit setters’ options and make it easier for blockers to commit. We predict that the serve/serve receive battle will determine the outcome of the match.

As a team, Washington is hitting .326, holding opponents to .148.
Washington State is hitting .271, holding opponents to a mere .092.

NCAA | Washington Volleyball at #5 in media poll

Five Pac-12 teams in top seven

Volleyball Magazine media poll for September 18, 2012:

Monday, September 17, 2012

Pac-12 | How dominant was the Pac-12 in nonconference play?

Washington's Amanda Gil
-Volleyblog Seattle photo
by Leslie Hamann

Pac-12 teams go 30-1 in final nonconference week; overall record is best of any in nation

The Pac-12 was dominant.

During the past four weeks, its teams won 5 out of every 6 matches against opponents from other conferences … a .833 winning percentage (110-22). Three teams—USC, Washington and Oregon—went undefeated.

Big preseason wins included Oregon State over Penn StateUCLA and California each with wins over Hawai’iWashington over Purdue, and Oregon over Ohio State.

The first week of the season, Pac-12 schools lost 7 matches; the second week it lost 9. But the third week brought just 5 losses (2 each by Utah and Arizona State), and in the incredible final week, the record was 30-1, with California’s 0-3 loss to San Francisco the only blemish.

Pac-12 2012 Nonconference Results


Arizona St
Washington St
Oregon St



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