Saturday, October 27, 2012

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

#7 USC 3, #5 Washington 2 (23-25, 25-22, 22-25, 25-23, 15-10)
next: #5 Washington @ #6 UCLA | October 28 | 12PM | Pac12 Networks

The stat sheet is a mess.

Washington's Amanda Gil had 15 block assists
and 6 kills against USC
-courtesy Shutter Geeks Photograpahy
If you look only at USC’s side of the ledger, you might assume the Trojans won in a rout.
  • USC, ranked #7, was 19-3 and playing at home.
  • Freshman sensation Samantha Bricio had 30 kills, a career high.
  • Sara Shaw (15) and Katie Fuller (12) combined for another 27 kills.
  • USC had a whopping 107 digs, led by Natalie Hagglund’s 34, a career high.
  • Shaw added 30 digs, a career high (previous: 19).
  • USC held Washington star Krista Vansant to a .150 hitting average; for the season, she hits .329.
  • Vansant was forced to take 80 swings, a career high (previous: 59).
  • Washington’s usually-powerful right-side attack was shut down; Kylin Muñoz had 4 kills and 4 errors on 26 swings (.000), and Kaleigh Nelson had 8 kills, 3 errors on 29 attacks (.172).
  • The Huskies had 14 service errors against just 3 aces. Vansant (4) and Muñoz (3) led the way in errors.

Add it up, and you have all the ingredients of a 3-0 USC win.

Except that didn’t happen. Washington won two of the first three sets, and was down just 21-22 in the second. The Huskies led the fourth set 20-18, and trailed in the fifth just 10-11.

How did THAT happen?
  • Washington’s superior blocking almost matched USC’s incredible digging. The Huskies lead the nation in blocks/set, a lead they will extend after out-stuffing the Trojans 20-7.
  • Amanda Gil had 15 block assists, a career high and a new school record.
  • With their offense lacking, Muñoz (6) and Nelson (8) nonetheless added another 14 combined block assists.
  • The Huskies—who lead the conference in opponents’ hitting percentage—held USC to a paltry .173.
  • Washington’s revolving door at MB2 kept producing. With Pac12 Player of the Week Melanie Wade out with an ankle injury (sustained in practice Tuesday), fellow freshman Lianna Sybeldon used her quickness to tally 9 kills , 2 errors on 17 swings (.412).
  • Libero Jenna Orlandini had one of the best nights of her career, with a season-best 28 digs, one shy of her all-time best
  • Cassie Strickland added 23 digs.

So it was, in truth, anyone’s game to win.

This was only Washington’s third loss of the season, but it followed a pattern. In each case, the Huskies missed chances to pull away at crucial moments, often by committing unforced errors. At 20-21 in the second set, Strickland served long. At 20-20 in the fourth set, Nelson sailed an attack long, and UW fumbled a pass on the next play. At 10-11 in the fifth set, Muñoz served out of bounds.

Washington's Amanda Gil celebrates a point against USC
-courtesy Shutter Geeks Photograpahy
Full credit should go to Bricio, who did a great job reading the defense, and hit with power all night, especially out of the back row. Hagglund, who’s been up and down this season, showed all the skills that earn her so much praise.

For the Huskies, this was a huge test for Vansant. She is, as Washington coach Jim McLaughlin often says, a stud. With so much pressure on her shoulders, she clearly wore down. But she never gave up, delivering several impressive kills when others would have been irretrievably frustrated after being dug so often.

This is a good Huskies team. But it can’t beat other elite teams without a right-side attack. And when all else is equal, it cannot win without better serving in the clutch.

  • #20 Ohio State traveled to Lincoln last night with a 6-4 Big-10 record. It left with a stunning 3-1 win against #4 Nebraska (25-22, 26-24, 19-25, 25-23). On Sunday, #1 Penn State visits the Cornhuskers, in what now looks like an even more fascinating showdown.

See also:

1 comment:

  1. Melanie has been injured twice this season, way too often, I don’t want to see her to be labeled as “prone to injure” in the future. She is such a great talent; she should have a long, healthy, and very successful career. She needs some help for strengthening her muscles, tendons, and ligaments, maybe special training and diets?


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