Sunday, October 14, 2012

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington’s loss to Oregon

#5 Oregon 3, #2 Washington 1 (26-24, 20-25, 25-22, 25-17)
Next: #7 Stanford @ #2 Washington | October 19, 2012 | 6PM [EARLY START]

[10/15/12: CORRECTIONS made to spelling of Amanda Gil's name]

EUGENE--It was a weekend of firsts for the 2012 Washington Huskies.

First rain. First large crowd in a hostile arena.

Washington coach Jim McLaughlin looks on in Oregon's Matt Court
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
And, of course, first loss of the season.

The Huskies were the last Division 1 team to feel the sting of defeat this season. But it was a match they coulda—maybe even shoulda—won.

Washington served at match point in the first set, but Oregon ran off the final four points in a row. The Huskies won the second set going away. And UW had a commanding 20-15 lead in the third set, before Alaina Bergsma led Oregon on a 10-2 closing run.

Yeah, the Huskies shoulda won.

Here’s some of what we learned.


In the first set, the scoreboard read 8-7, in favor of Oregon. Oregon’s official score sheet, however, had it 9-6, in favor of Washington. The score on our own sheet read 10-7, Washington.

Turns out, the referees figured it was Washington 9, Oregon 7.

Oregon coach Jim Moore
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Frankly, up referee John Kinyon and down referee Barbara Silvey had a bad night. Silvey in particular seemed to be at the center of many confusing calls, from ambiguous blocking touches to antenna disputes to rotation errors. When calls were reversed or replays awarded (how often does THAT happen in the Pac-12?), Kinyon was sometimes less than definitive, leaving confusion in the minds of players, coaches, fans … and scorekeepers.

We rarely see Kinyon or Silvey in Seattle, but they may have experience with Oregon head coach Jim Moore. No other Pac-12 coach calls as much attention to himself during matches than Moore does. He has a well-earned reputation for griping long, loud and often about calls that most conference coaches simply let slide. He behaves more like someone coaching college basketball than volleyball.

 Against the Huskies, Kinyon and Silvey allowed Moore to plead his case, and then plead some more, and then plead again. Sometimes it worked. Mostly, it just threw off the rhythm of the match. Add to that the Ducks’ annoying habit of having a mop crew come out on the court time and again to wipe up (real or imagined) wet spots on their side of the net, and you have a volleyball experience that is unique to Oregon’s Matt Court.

Like any veteran coach, Washington’s Jim McLaughlin declined to comment about the officiating after the match. But from where we sat, Moore’s antics might have worked. Later in that first set, the Huskies were cruising to a 23-18 lead when Silvey—who’d been getting nonstop feedback from Moore—called a net violation on Washington’s Kelcey Dunaway.

Fair enough. But on the next play, after a Huskies’ kill appeared to make it 23-19. Silvey belatedly signaled a second-consecutive net violation, this time on setter Katy Beals. It seemed, at best, a phantom call, and it energized the Ducks, who suddenly trailed by only two. With the loud crowd behind them, Oregon went on the win the set.

The refs were less noticeable after the first set, but when two elite teams play each other, the chances that a ref can influence the outcome looms larger.


Amanda Gil moments after jamming her finger
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Washington ranks second in blocks per set in Division 1, and senior Amanda Gil is a big reason why. For a few anxious moments, however, it seemed the Huskies might have lost her.

With Washington trailing 8-10 in the second set, Gil’s left hand thrust into an Bergsma attack. Gil howled in pain, grabbing her fingers as her teammates looked on with concern.

In the din, McLaughlin and his staff didn't appear to notice, and play continued. With tears on her cheeks, Gil rose against another Oregon attack … and stuffed it for a block. With service rotation, Gil went to the bench, clutching her hand, then ran to the tunnel with the trainer in tow.

That’s it, we thought. Broken finger, maybe. At a minimum, done for the night.

But three rotations later, with the Huskies now trailing 14-17, Gil re-entered the game, two fingers taped together. Again it was Bergsma, who got a back row kill and rotated to the front. On the next play, it was Bergsma once more, but this time Gil and Kaleigh Nelson roofed the attack. Three points later, it was Gil and Kylin Muñoz for the block, tying the score at 18, and forcing Oregon to use its second time-out. Two points later, Gil and Muñoz. Two points after that, Gil and Muñoz yet again.

The middle blocker with the jammed finger finished the set and stayed in the rest of the match, earning 14 block assists and connecting on 6 kills against 2 errors. More important, she showed her teammates what she’s made of.


Gabbi Parker (11) celebrates with Jenna Orlandini (left)
and Amanda Gil (1)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Not long after Gil injured her finger, McLaughlin replaced Cassie Strickland with Gabbi Parker.

This has been a strange season for Parker. She’s big and strong, but she’s also emotional, and she’s lost her starting OH2 position to the 5-8 freshman, Strickland.

Strickland has huge hops for a player her size, and can hit for power, even if she picks up her share of being blocked. Like Parker, she has a booming jump serve, which can be effective when she’s on, and frustrating when she’s not.

But Strickland’s real asset is her defense. Recruited, we all figured, as a libero, Strickland fills the void left by the departure of Summer Ross: a player with the eyework and determination to keep balls from dropping, whether she’s rotated to the front row or the back. More than anything, that’s kept Strickland on the court, and Parker on the bench.

Cassie Strickland
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
With Washington trailing 11-15 in the second set, a long rally appeared to end when the Ducks bounced an attack high off the Huskies blockers’ hands, sending the ball impossibly beyond Washington’s end line. But Strickland instantly bolted. She not only reached the ball—a shock in itself—but she punched it both high enough, and with perfect arc, back to the center of the Huskies’ side. It may have been the most acrobatic save we've witnessed in years.

The Ducks, however, went on to win the point, and UW trailed by five. Washington needed a spark, and Oregon was vulnerable now that setter Lauren Plum was on the front line. So McLaughlin opted to give Parker a shot.

At 12-16, Parker stuffed Oregon’s big middle Ariana Williams. At 15-18, she got another huge block. On the very next point, Parker creamed an attack off the block, forcing an Oregon time-out. She ended the match with 6 kills and just 1 error, plus 5 block assists. A large contingent of family and friends—Parker is from Eugene—roared their approval.

For now, McLaughlin will most certainly keep Strickland in the OH2 back row rotations, and allow Parker to compete for the front row. If nothing else, it gives opposing coaches yet another Washington wrinkle to worry about.

  • Parker was not the only Husky with a big fan following. Kaleigh Nelson is from Salem, and had plenty of rooters in both gyms.
  • Bergsma’s third-set dominance will surely create some Huskies’ homework: how to stop a truly gifted right-side attacker. Bergsma was by far the best at that position of any of Washington’s opponents so far this season, and exposed a real weakness in one or two rotations.


  1. We tried watching the match from home here in Seattle on the Oregon "live stream" and were very disappointed. The server must have been overloaded because we only got to see about 6 seconds of action followed by 20 or 30 seconds of reloading. And the video had no scoreboard, so we had no way of knowing what we missed during the break in the video. This meant we had to rely on the Oregon announcers to keep track of the score. And they were apprentice broadcasters at best. They knew almost nothing about the game. An early clue was when they said the Oregon setter had been called for a foul for "moving before the serve". They confirmed their ignorance by calling digs "bumps", and so on. As the Huskies struggled it became very frustrating to have to listen to this blather in order to learn the score. I hope the PAC 12 improves the quality of their live streams. This broadcast did not bring credit to their program, failing in both technical and quality areas ... On the game itself, I'm happy to read your remarks, but it seems as though a lot more could be said about Husky service errors. We only saw 20% of the match due to the video problems, but I remember a lot of missed serves at critical points. They do so much at a high level, they really can't afford to waste their opportunities with net serves. But then again, this is a work in progress, and hopefully they will continue to improve just a Jill did over the course of her Husky career.

    1. Because we were at the match, we did not see or hear the web stream broadcast.

      We'd love to hear from other readers about their experience.

      You are right to ask about service errors ... both teams had four aces, but the Huskies had 14 service errors to Oregon's 7. Jim McLaughlin has already made changes this season to his serving lineup ... we wouldn't be surprised if he considers more this week.

    2. I had good streaming without the breaks and loading pauses.

      Service errors, I think relate to pressure on the mind to preform. The natural follow thru of a swing or pace of an approach, although natural to an Athlete, can be altered and second guessed if flooded with external forces [crowd]. Just some expressions on faces said that they heard the crowd.

    3. It was painful listening to the guys try to call the match (and I only made it home to watch the 3rd and 4th sets). After every, single Husky service error, one commentator would say that the Huskies "just keep shooting themselves in the foot." Ok, true. But it became laughable with how many times he said that line. I get that these guys were probably broadcast students, but I'd have loved to have turned the sound off completely, However, like previously posted, they didn't have any graphics all at for the scoreboard so listening was the only way to get that info.

      The stream itself was iffy when I first logged on, but I ended up having no problems with buffering during the entire 4th set.


    4. Video was short and choppy while it lasted; the middle of the third set it stopped entirely, and no amount of reloading/refreshing/whatever could get it back. There was a message from the Pac 12 server at one point saying something like "There has been a problem; try again", and eventually I got a black screen that loaded just fine but sat there black.

      While the video was working, I had the live blog open at the same time, and the video was about 30 seconds behind the live blog. I was watching via an ongoing lousy connection in NYC and thought the problems were due to that, but then people were posting on the live blog about their bad video experiences, so it was more widespread than that. It's funny that some people had good solid connections throughout.

      Thank goodness for the live blog during the games, although they have their own problems with comments randomly being disabled as well as the originators' connection ability. It's fun to see the players' families commenting there, too.

      McLaughlin's comment in the Go Husky article (I think) about how great the environment was that night, and how he wished they could play in that all the time, was pretty wise, I think.

      Considering the negatives that were thrown at them (crowd, goofy court visuals -how much does that interfere with your head?-, practice shut-out mentioned here, funny officiating, random stoppages for court-wiping also mentioned here, etc.), that is all good training for staying in your own game and doing what you need to do. I think JM has a longer view, and that is good.

      His faith in Cassie is already showing dividends, and his faith in the team becoming who he thinks they can be, individually and as a team, is inspiring.

      Thanks again, Jack and Leslie, for all you do to tell us what's going on and helping us understand it. It's gratifying to see so many comments here and hear other people's thoughts.

      Best wishes,

    5. The reason it wasn't a professional video feed is because, well, it wasn't a professional doing it (from what I understand). I believe that students heard about the fact that the game would not be televised, and it was broadcast as a student A/V feed.

      Bummer that people had so many issues with bandwidth, but let's be honest on many professionals out there really add value to a volleyball match anyway. :)

    6. Serving, serving, serving! 14 service errors! WOW! And several during key points in the game. Just unacceptable.

      The video stream sucked. Rarely had more than 20-30 seconds straight before it choked. Funny how it worked fine during time outs. Audio was lagging behind the video. No scoreboard. The team announcing...good Lord! If I hear "a diving..." once more I may scream. Is it that hard to call a game? You don't have to say every name and tell us everything that is happening...WE CAN SEE IT OURSELVES!

  2. The kids looked off their game, I think effected by the crowd. The Duck fans are adamant about beating the Huskies in every sport they can. Give them credit they put 22 short of 4000 in Matthew Knight Arena. They never shut down the noise and cheer. The Ducks were tough, no doubt but the tables will be turned as the UW team learns from this experience. So the record for a home crowd in the PAC-12 is 6200 at a Cal match? What can we do on campus to exceed that? I hope Husky Sports marketing is getting on their A-game.

  3. We watched the stream and had relatively few problems. Only once did the the stream pause out. Between plays the video quality was great, but seemed to lag a bit during game play. It got really weird jumping back and forward mid way though the second game.

  4. Audio was 1-2 secs behind the video steam for me. It appeared there were more delays when UW players were ready to serve. Wondering if some of that was intentional. Katy Beals had good ace/error ratio. But she missed a serve coming out of a timeout that seemed to shift momentum. Agree there were too many service errors. Serve reception could be better during the latter part of sets. Need a more consistent middle attack. The 6-2 offense is mitigating that some.

  5. Jack:
    Were you in a position to see or hear what was said between Moore and McLaughlin after the match? It was more than just the usual 'good game' handshake. Several people have told me there was an incident in the morning when the Huskies were kept waiting for their morning practice session and that may have been what the post-game 'incident' was about.

    Any ideas?

    1. Didn't see or hear anything from where we sat on press row.

      Will ask around, however.

  6. We watched the stream and it was pretty bad - lots of breaks where we missed 10 - 30 seconds of the game. I checked out internet connection speed at the time - it was blazing fast, so most likely it was a problem with the PAC-12 broadcasting server. And I agree with the comment about the announcers - they clearly knew next to nothing about volleyball. Silence plus a scoreboard graphic would have been far preferable.

  7. "Amanda Gill is one tough cookie" but, according to the roster and photo captions, her last name only has one 'l' in it. The text here consistently uses two.

    1. True that. Thanks for catching it. Corrections made.

      Amanda Gil/Gill Coliseum ... a Gil/Gill overload this weekend!

  8. I watched the WSU/Oregon game, and there was a stretch when WSU was on a roll, and the game had to be stopped because of rotational issues. Was it a complaint by Oregon coach, which disrupted the game and WSU's momentum? Maybe. But, WSU lost that set.

  9. What is it about Oregon coaches? Kelly does it on the football field, Kent used to do it on the BBall court (don't know if Altmon does or not) and now the VBall coach? It's like they've all been drilled in "Officials intimidation" tactics and instructed to use them whenever possible. Will be interesting to see what happens when they come up here to play - I'm guessing Moore won't be getting away with those antics and a 3-0 sweep and domination by the Lady Dawgs...

  10. We watched the live video at home (Seattle). For the most part, it was pretty smooth with only one or two interruptions (reloading). The sound did come a second or so late, but that was better than the other way around. We actually think that the commentators were OK. They were not as painfully biased compared to some broadcasts (e.g., Cal, Florida).
    Jim Moore is known to whine and complain, but he was over the top in this game, IMO. I have never seen a game with so much interruptions by a coach. On the other hand, the refs allowed these interruptions to occur.
    Finally, about the game .... When two teams are very evenly matched, every opportunity counts. As mentioned in this article, the Huskies made some crucial mental errors (serving and passing) that led to easy Oregon points when Washington was ahead 24-22 in the first set. This happened again in the third set, evaporating a huge lead late in the set. One of Oregon strategies that worked well against the Huskies was to send short serves to Krista Vansant.

  11. The feed was much better the night before watching it for the OSU game and the only thing that was better was that on the Oregon game they did give the score, because on the OSU game they would just tell you when it got to set point and match point as far as the score. I had the same experience as most in that the 4th set finally was okay, but thank goodness for the chat so I could see what was going on while it would keep telling me that there was an error and a lost connection. It was disappointing that they had the service errors or they would have won in straight sets. At least this should force them to make changes so that this is not such an issue in the future.

  12. I think you're being diplomatic in describing the officiating. It was pretty poor, and in the first set it certainly looked like the Huskies won a point to go to a 9-6 lead, but in all the haggling with the officials it never got on the scoreboard. Is there a Pac12 review of volleyball officiating? The Huskies looked a bit off their game; they missed multiple short serves from Oregon's Kawasaki, and made a lot of service errors. I'm sure they'll learn from this and continue to get better. Go Huskies!

  13. This season has been awesome: the west coast teams in the top 10, the Pac-12 network, and head-to-head matchups like the Ducks-Huskies. I enjoy the insights and scope of this blog and trust that it objectively assesses the Huskies team within the context of the conference and the national scene. I understand the disappointment with losing the "big one" in a super-charged environment and losing the undefeated status, but I expect more than the lead being a power whine. "If it weren't for the coach's antics, the incompetent refs, and the conspiring mop crew..."; sounds like a club parent unwilling to acknowledge their own team's lack of performance. You don't get the calls on the road. Oregon is a great team. The Huskies could have won, but to say they should have won crosses the line.

    1. And what's the point of specifically naming the officials when admittedly you don't know them? It gives the impression that you stopped just short of publishing their home addresses and kids' elementary schools.

    2. The official's names are always listed in the stats that are posted on the websites of each team after every match. It's a little disingenuous to suggest this is just short of publishing home addresses and kids' elementary schools.

      I'm sure the refs in Saturdays UW@UO match were less impacted by this blog than they were by the overly theatrical antics of Jim Moore. If you're going to be a D1 ref you need to expect a little media criticism from time to time.

    3. I recommend a new book called "Scorecasting: The hidden influences behind how sports are played and games are won."

      Authors Tobias J. Moskowitz (a University of Chicago economist) and L. Jon Wertheim (a Sports Illustrated writer) use the "Freakonomics" approach to explore data to evaluate the validity of conventional wisdom in sports.

      They spend much of the book dissecting home court advantage. Evaluating tens of thousands of outcomes over dozens of sports, they conclude that:
      1. Home court advantage is real;
      2. It isn't caused by the usual suspects (crowd support, home cooking, no travel, familiar surroundings);
      3. The advantage is primarily due to officials who make calls in crucial situations that favor the home team; and
      4. The larger and more hostile the crowd, the bigger the effect.

      Among other things, they observe:

      "When humans are faced with enormous pressure—say, making a crucial call with a rabid crowd yelling, taunting and chanting a few feet away—it is natural to want to alleviate that pressure. By making snap-judgment calls in favor of the home team, referees, whether they consciously appreciate it or not, are relieving some of that stress. They may also be taking a cue from the crowd when trying to make the right call, especially in an uncertain situation." (page 159)

      Whether or not you agree with their conclusions, the book is a thought-provoking read.

      We at Volleyblog Seattle believe great coaches know about officials' home court bias, and adjust their teaching and their game management accordingly.

      And, as reporters, we call 'em as we see 'em. As we wrote, most Pac-12 refs to a good job. These refs let set one get completely out of hand. This is not the first time Coach Moore has injected himself into the flow of the game, and it may not be the last. But what he did and how the refs reacted was simply an important part of the contest, which we are obligated to share with our readers.


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