next: Tuesday, September 11 | 7pm | #7 Washington @ Portland
Long Beach State is probably the best 2-5 team in the nation. Their starting middles are out of the lineup with injuries, but they’ve got hitters who can pound the ball and a big-time setter. Washington’s 3-set sweep was no easy win.
|Washington's Jenna Orlandini and Krista Vansant watch a Long Beach State attack go out-of-bounds|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
|Washington's Jenni Nogueras (9)|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo
by Leslie Hamann
Long Beach State’s Tara Roenicke was Summer Ross’s partner when the pair won the2010 sand volleyball world championship. Roenicke’s sand game savvy and versatility was obvious in her indoor game. Throughout the match against Washington, Roenicke seemed to be everywhere.
By comparison, Washington’s Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals were almost invisible. In the 6-2 (two setter) offense that seems to be the Huskies’ template this season, both setters were quiet, workmanlike and solid.
The reason fans noticed Roenicke, however, had everything to do with her team’s biggest weakness. Long Beach State’s passing was poor—sometimes very poor—forcing Roenicke to make way too many acrobatic sets and severely limiting her options.
Nogueras and Beals, on the other hand, feasted on consistent passing, allowing them to continue their 2012 trend of all-along-the-net distribution:
Outside Hitters: 44 attempts
Krista Vansant—12 kills, 3 errors on 27 attempts (.333)
Gabbi Parker—8 kills, 3 errors on 17 attempts (.294)
Right Side Hitters: 27 attempts
Kylin Muñoz—9 kills, 0 errors on 18 attempts (.500)
Kaleigh Nelson—4 kills, 3 errors on 9 attempts (.111)
Middles: 24 attempts
Lianna Sybeldon—10 kills, 1 error on 17 attempts (.529)
Amanda Gil—2 kills, 1 error on 7 attempts (.143)
Washington’s setters aren’t flashy, but they don’t need to be.
Gabbi Parker pulled it together.
Washington’s ability to win big matches may depend on how much the team can count on someone other than star hitter Vansant to come up big when the score is close. Washington coach Jim McLaughlin would like Gabbi Parker to take that role.
At the start of the second set, Parker failed to do her footwork, and was blocked on two consecutive plays. Three points later, she was out of position on a block attempt, and two points after that, she served the ball into the net. Her face was red, she angrily slapped her hands and she hung her head in frustration.
|Jim McLaughlin addresses Gabbi Parker (11)|
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Like it or not, volleyball teammates and opponents feed off emotion—both positive and negative. At that point, Long Beach State could see that Parker was on the verge of a meltdown.
In previous seasons, McLaughlin might have pulled Parker. This time, however, he had a hunch.
“Our leash (with Parker) is pretty long,” McLaughlin said. “Sometimes players who start off not so hot can end up being a hot hitter.”
And that’s just what Parker did. When she rotated back to the front row with the score tied at 10, she hit cross court for a kill. After a superb Amanda Gil termination block, Parker smartly pushed a tip off the Long Beach State block for another kill. A Washington service error was followed by yet another Parker kill, this one down the line. By the time the Huskies had a 21-17 lead, Parker had five consecutive kills and a .444 average to that point in the match.
“We would prefer she not get up and down,” said McLaughlin. “But I believe in her. I believed she could come back like she did.”
The Huskies were efficient.
Of all the statistics coaches study, the most telling is something called side-out percentage. If your opponent never serves twice in a row, you side-out at 100%. In the second set, Washington sided-out at 95%.
“That’s a high for us,” said McLaughlin. “That’s the highest I’ve ever seen for us at UW.”
What it means is that Washington made the most out of each of Long Beach State’s serves. Good passes led to good sets led to quick kills. McLaughlin thought his hitters made the most of their opportunities to keep rallies short.
“They’re starting to hit with better range, and they’re not afraid to take good cuts at the ball. And we’re covering (the block) well.”
- Kylin Muñoz’s 9 kill/no error performance followed Thursday’s 8 kill/no error outing against Seattle U. “Kylin,” said McLaughlin, “has got a future ahead of her. She’s so athletic. She’s such a hard worker.”
- After the match, Washington coach Jim McLaughlin described freshman Lianna Sybeldon’s 10 kill/1 error (.529) performance as “studly.” See Terry Wood’s story in this morning’s Seattle Times: Freshman Sybeldon fuels Washington’s volleyball sweep of Long Beach State.
- Washington has now won 39 consecutive nonconference matches, dating back to a close loss in Honolulu to Hawai’i in 2008. 38 of those wins have been 3-0 sweeps; the only 3-1 win was against this same Long Beach State team, last season in Long Beach.
- #7 Washington (8-0) is one of only six Top25 teams still undefeated. The list includes #1 Nebraska (7-0), #2 Penn State (5-0), #5 USC (7-0), #13 Oregon (7-0) and #22 BYU (7-0). Teams that just dropped out of the unbeaten ranks the past two nights include #6 Florida State (losing to Miami, FL), #10 Dayton (losing to both Ohio State and Western Kentucky), and #14 Minnesota (losing last night to #4 Texas, after beating the Longhorns the night before.) USC barely hung on at home against #17 San Diego, winning in five sets after trailing 1-2.
WRITTEN BY Jack Hamann | PHOTOS BY Leslie Hamann