Sunday, November 4, 2012

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington's wins against Colorado and Utah

#8 Washington 3, Colorado 0
#8 Washington 3, Utah 2
next: #8 Washington @ California | November 7

On a weekend when #2 Oregon fell back to Earth, losing at home 2-3 to Cal and 0-3 to #1 Stanford ... and when #4 Nebraska also lost twice (to Michigan and Michigan State) ... and #5 UCLA and #6 USC both lost in the desert ...

On a weekend like that, #8 Washington used youth to clobber Colorado, and pure grit to overcome Utah, avoiding the fate of other Top 10 powers. That big sigh of relief you hear is echoing from Alaska Airlines Arena.


Washington coach Jim McLaughlin started four freshmen--Katy Beals, Cassie Strickland, Melanie Wade and Lianna Sybeldon--against struggling Colorado. Among the other regulars were sophomores Krista Vansant and Kaleigh Nelson.

It may have been a shot across the bow of Stanford, which sometimes uses five freshman. It should make volleyball fans in Seattle and Palo Alto salivate at the prospect of another couple of years of high octane rivalry.


How many times has a Jim McLaughlin-coached team come all the way back from an 0-2 deficit to win in Seattle?

Exactly once. Against Utah. Today.

Not that UW has been down 0-2 at home all that often, but refusing to quit is a hallmark of all great teams, and turning that mindset into a win against a tall and inspired team can be a huge plus.


Regardless of what one thinks about whether blocks equal wins, Washington's front line is turning in a rare and special season. It leads the nation in blocks per set, and seems to get more intimidating each week. A real plus was the emergence of Krista Vansant, who had been burned too often against right-side hitters at Oregon and UCLA. Against Utah, she had a career-high 7 block assists.

The marquee story, though, is senior Amanda Gil. After a modest start, Gil has become the nation's most dominant blocker, regularly recording double-digit block assists and, perhaps, forcing opposing hitters to re-think their approach.

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