Saturday, October 13, 2012

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

#2 Washington 3, Oregon State 0 (25-14, 25-22, 25-13)
Next: #2 Washington @ #5 Oregon | October 13, 2012 | 7PM [no TV, free web stream at]

CORVALLIS—The most telling lines on the Washington @ Oregon State stat sheet are all but invisible: UW errors.

Washington's Krista Vansant attacks
against Oregon State
-Volleyblog Seattle photo
by Leslie Hamann
In three spirited sets in front of a vocal Cancer Awareness Night crowd in Gill Coliseum, the Huskies committed just four service errors, and merely one serve-receive error. If, as Washington coach Jim McLaughlin preaches, serving and passing win matches, then those small stats loomed large indeed.


Three Washington servers stood out. Freshman Cassie Strickland, who serves nothing but jump serve bombs, launched serves with confidence and never committed a serving error. Her most impressive run was in the third set, when she served five straight points, most throwing the Beavers out-of-system, and creating chances for two Krista Vansant kills, a Kylin Muñoz kill, and two Amanda Gill blocks.

Muñoz continues to impress from the service line, launching runs of 2, 3 and 7 points in a row. The latter is even more impressive because, when Muñoz serves, the Huskies play without a setter. The idea is to have Muñoz fire her line drives across the net, forcing opponents to hit into a big block. But even when rallies were extended, UW managed to remember who had backup setting responsibilities, and the offense clicked as cleanly as ever.

Freshman Katy Beals has a deceptively delicious serve; it floats with little rotation or speed, then drives at the feet of opposing passers. Beals rarely makes service errors, and gives opponents a wildly different look than either Strickland or Muñoz.

McLaughlin’s other three servers: Vansant, Jenna Orlandini and Kelcey Dunaway, have all shown flashes of toughness, but he’s like all three of them to do a better job hitting deep corners and serving to the opponents’ least-accomplished passers.


Washington’s only passing error against the Beavers was a communication mix-up between Strickland and Vansant. Otherwise, the Huskies passed nails. Great passing—which doesn’t get near enough attention in stats and national rankings—is simply the key to Washington’s 16-0 start this season. When setters get a clean pass, all their are available. Opponents have little chance of keying on just one or two hitters.

Most opponents serve Vansant as often as they can, in order to force her to pass before hitting. The sophomore has made tremendous improvement since last season, adding a tool that is necessary to be consider one of the nation’s 3-4 elite outside hitters. Even in the 5-set win against UCLA, Vansant kept her focus, something other top hitters tend to lose when a match grows long.

Orlandini doesn’t get enough credit for her passing this season. Her dig totals are low—but that’s in large part because (1) the Huskies serve a lot of aces, and (2) the Huskies get a lot of blocks. Because Orlandini is rarely out of position, she doesn’t need to race for the spectacular-looking saves that draw attention to other liberos. And when she does dig, her setters can usually rely on a ball that’s right at the ten foot line, about twenty feet in the air. In other words, just like they want it.


We seem to say this every week, but both Muñoz and Kaleigh Nelson deserve continued praise for making right-side attacks such a potent Washington weapon. Too often—and especially late in a close matches—right-side hitters can get too cute, trying pushes, roll shots or tips when it’s better to take a hard rip. Both Muñoz and Nelson have avoided that trap, and—especially against the Beavers—bring a crashing halt to opponents’ late runs.

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