Wednesday, September 12, 2012

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

#5 Washington 3, Portland 0 (25-16, 25-21, 25-22)
next: Tuesday, September 18 | 7pm: Washington State @ Washington

Triple block by Washington's Gabbi Parker (11) Lianna Sybeldon (10) and Kaleigh Nelson (6)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Washington’s 3-0 win at Portland last night marks the end of another unblemished preseason, and in many ways, it was typical of the season so far:
  • UW outhit the Pilots .310 - .200. The Huskies have the 4th-best hitting percentage of the 328 teams in Division I, and have outhit their nine opponents this season .326 - .154.
  • Washington outblocked Portland 10-2. The Huskies rank #11 nationally, holding a season-long 82-29 advantage.
  • The Huskies had just 3 serve-receive errors last night (to the Pilots’ 9), continuing a welcome and important trend.
  • Great passing is the springboard for good set distribution. Last night, setters Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals sent 40 sets to Gabbi Parker (11 kills) and Krista Vansant (8 kills), another 28 attempts to right-siders Kylin Muñoz (9 kills) and Kaleigh Nelson (7 kills) and 17 to middles Lianna Sybeldon (4 kills) and Amanda Gil (1 kill).
  • Washington came into the match with a dreadful service ace/service error ratio: 37/61. Last night, however, there were 9 aces, 4 by Vansant, and just 6 errors.

Washington was supposed to travel east this week to face powerful Penn State, but the new Pac-12 schedule got in the way (UW’s opener against WSU was moved up to next Tuesday, so the Penn State trip was cancelled.) Except for Purdue, Washington has played plenty of teams that may struggle to qualify for the 2012 NCAA Tournament.

Against that competition, Washington has recorded stellar side-out stats (rarely allowing opponents to go on long serving runs,) but it ranks near the bottom in number of digs per set (although opponents’ 182 hitting errors and 62 service errors cut into the total dig opportunities).

You can nitpick numbers, but it’s hard to argue with results:
  • After nine matches, Washington completed its nonconference schedule with nine wins, all of them 3-0 shutouts.
  • The Huskies have now won 40 consecutive nonconference contests, dating back to 2008.
  • Washington has won 67 of its past 68 nonconference matches and 100 of its last 102.
  • Of those 100 wins, 97 have been 3-0 sweeps.

Three lessons pop out from last night’s match:

Krista Vansant had one of the least-memorable nights of her young career: 8 kills, 6 errors on 18 swings (.111). When that happens, great teams need their other OH to pick up the slack, and that’s exactly what Gabbi Parker did: 11 kills, 3 errors on 22 attacks (.364). To beat the big teams in the Pac-12—especially on the road—UW will need both Vansant and Parker at the top of their games at the same time.

In the past three matches, Kylin Muñoz tallied 27 kills and just one error on 45 swings; that’s a .578 average folks. Over the same span, her right-side counterpart Kaleigh Nelson has 16 kills, 5 errors on 31 attacks … a solid .355 average. Add 10 block assists each over that span, and you can see how much more balanced Washington’s attack can be this season if the team continues to pass well enough to set the right side.

Against Portland, freshman middle Lianna Sybeldon buried every quick set Nogueras sent her way, and led the team with 7 block assists. Over the past three sets, her numbers are 17 kills, 3 errors on 33 swings (.424) with 12 block assists, most on the team over that span. Senior middle Kelcey Dunaway knows she’s got her work cut out for her to earn a return to the starting lineup.

WRITTEN BY Jack Hamann | PHOTOS BY Leslie Hamann

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