- #2 Washington @ Oregon State | October 12 | 7:00PM [no television]
- #2 Washington @ #5 Oregon | October 13 | 7:00PM [no television]
[CORRECTIONS on 10.06,12, 6:00PM: Corrects earlier references to Utah; corrects Colorado's blocks/set rankings]
Undefeated. Tied for first place in the Pac-12. Among the elite in the national rankings.
What else is there for Washington to worry about?
Plenty, says coach Jim McLaughlin.
Take, for instance, the national rankings. As Washington entered Colorado’s cavernous, nearly-empty arena, players knew that Oregon had blown a 6-1 fifth-set lead and lost at Stanford. That meant that Washington was the only remaining undefeated team in Division 1.
|Colorado's Alexis Austin (3) attacks against Washington's triple block|
-photo courtesy Colorado Sports Information
“We can’t control any of that stuff,” said McLaughlin. “And if we worry about it, we’re not a mature team. You know, it’s human nature to do it, but you just can’t if you want to be very successful.”
“She’s a consistent server,” said McLaughlin of Beals. “And I want more of the girls on our team to be like her. She has a good routine, she’s got a steady head. She hits it the same way every time; she’s very repeatable. So, it doesn’t surprise me at all.”
The Huskies rode a 74% side-out average to a .560-.156 hitting advantage, and cruised to a 25-17 first set win. It was much the same in the second set, as libero Jenna Orlandini kept several rallies alive with remarkable digs.
“Jo’s a good player,” said McLaughlin, “and she’s got a good feel for the game. And she’s in good spots as a result of seeing the game. She should be like that every game. She should be our leading digger every game.”
Washington continued its season-long superb passing, allowing Beals and Jenni Nogueras to spread the sets, including 15 to the middle and 21 to the opposites. Colorado came in as one of the top fifty blocking teams in the nation, but connected on just four stuffs; three against Kaleigh Nelson.
By contrast, the Huskies completely dominated the net, with 12.5 team blocks. Tough serves gave Colorado setter Nicole Edelman little choice but to feed her big hitter, Alexis Austin. And Washington’s front line knew it: Kylin Muñoz had 7 block assists Amanda Gil and Kelcey Dunaway added 6 and 5, respectively.
“We blocked a lot of balls,” said McLaughlin. “We got ‘em in a little bit of trouble where they couldn’t attack the right, so they had to go outside. And, of course, that increases your chances of blocking, for sure.”
And it would have been a good night overall, except for set three. As they did against Utah, the Huskies lost focus after the break. Five of Utah’s first seven points in the third set were from UW service errors.
“We really came out and played good volleyball in game one and game two,” said McLaughlin, “and then we let up.”
When an opponent is on a roll, McLaughlin wants his players to take some chances, even if they risk a few errors.
“But, when we’re scoring points, you don’t have to. The worst thing you can do is miss a serve. I think we’re starting to think about the situation. We didn’t tonight. But I think we have to start thinking about the situation, prior to engaging in our pre-serve routine.”
Despite committing 7 third-set errors, Colorado could draw no closer than 20-22. Krista Vansant—who led all players with 13 kills, had the final two kills for the Huskies.
And, as Washington faces two high-profile matches in Oregon, McLaughlin’s mantra is about avoiding letdowns when the team is ahead.
“We talk about finishing,” he said. “We have to finish what we start.”
“It doesn’t matter who we play, where we play, when we play. It’s how we play.”
- At home, the Huskies enjoy crowds measured in the thousands—Washington often leads the conference in attendance. But on the road, UW has seen how some of the other side lives: the audiences in both Utah and Colorado were each around 700. That should change in Corvallis and Eugene, however.
- The Pac-12 Network’s broadcasters in Boulder were Chris Marlowe and Al Scates. Their analysis was among the best we’ve heard so far, especially from Scates, who lavished praise on McLaughlin’s swing blocking scheme.
- The Pac-12 Network will not broadcast either of the matches in Oregon this weekend. Oregon’s sports information director tells us the Ducks match will be available on a web stream, but we’re still awaiting details (including whether it will cost anything to watch.)
- USC swept all three Pac-12 Player of the Week Awards. Libero Natalie Hagglund was Defensive Player of the Week, while 17-year-old freshman hitter Samantha Bricio was both Offensive Player of the Week and Freshman of the Week. Interesting that Stanford was shut out of these awards, considering that the Cardinal knocked off the previously-undefeated Ducks. Last week’s Offensive POW was Washington’s Krista Vansant; the Defensive POW was the Huskies’ Amanda Gil.
WRITTEN BY Jack Hamann | PHOTOS BY Leslie Hamann