Saturday, December 1, 2012

NCAA | Figuring out Hawai’i vs. Washington

Washington's Krista Vansant (16) and
Katy Beals (7)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Two powerful teams with radically different offenses
  • #8 Hawai’i 3, Santa Clara 0 (25-20, 25-13, 25-19)
  • #5 Washington 3, Central Arkansas 0 (25-13, 25-17, 25-18)
  • next: #8 Hawai’i @ #5 Washington | December 1 | 7PM

Mita Uiato had 114 decisions.

The Hawai’i setter, facing Santa Clara in the NCAA Tournament first round, put up 114 sets. 40 times, she targeted outside hitter Emily Hartong. 43 times, it was outside hitter Jane Croson.

Hartong responded with 17 kills on just 2 errors (.375), and Croson with 22 kills on 4errors (.419), in a 3-0 sweep of the Broncos.

That means 73% of Uiato’s offense went through just two players on the left side of the Rainbow Wahine offense.

A couple hours later, on the same court, Washington’s two setters—Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals—took a decidedly different approach.

The Huskies’ duo needed just 75 sets to put away Central Arkansas, but those attempts were spread across the board:

Hitting Pct.
OH Cassie Strickland
OP Kaleigh Nelson
OP Kylin Muñoz
OH Gabbi Parker
OH Krista Vansant
MB Melanie Wade
MB Amanda Gil


That means that 72% of Washington’s offense went through four players. And it means that tonight’s second round match between two powerhouse teams should be a contrast in styles: Washington’s wide distribution vs. Hawai’i’s twin terrors.

Washington's Jenna Orlandini, Cassie Strickland and Melanie Wade
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
“When our offense is working by committee”, says Washington coach Jim McLaughlin, “we’re pretty tough.”

But, says McLaughlin, it would be a mistake to think a legendary coach like Hawai’i’s Dave Shoji won’t consider mixing it up.

“What you see always overrides what you know in this game,” McLaughlin says. “You just gotta pay attention. Stay focused on the things that tell you what to do. If you do that, you’ll be in good spots.”

“They’re a great program,” McLaughlin said of Hawai’i. “They’re a Top Ten team. They draw the biggest crowd in the country. They’re 27-2.”

Two years ago, these same two schools met in the same round in the same venue.

“We played very poorly last time we were here,” said Shoji. “Washington had a lot to do with it.”

“We couldn’t pass. And we couldn’t run our offense,” remembers Hartong. “Their serving was tough. It was hard for us to side out.”

We have to stay away from Amanda Gil 
—Hawai’i coach Dave Shoji

This time around, the Rainbow Wahine face the number one blocking team in the nation. Santa Clara’s block was anemic against the ‘Bows; Croson and Hartong often hit over the top of blocks that rarely penetrated the net.

Amanda Gil (1) and Krista Vansant (16)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
“We’ll have to hit smart,” said Shoji. “We have to stay away from Amanda Gil. We probably need to attack some of their pin players. (Krista) Vansant’s big, but the other pin players are about the same size as us.”

“Great!” said Washington’s Kylin Muñoz, when told of Shoji’s comments. “Bring it on. We like that.”

“I feel like Washington has the advantage against Hawai’i,” said Central Arkansas coach David McFatrich. They don’t have a lot of weaknesses. They make pretty good adjustments. I think they have a little better block. I think their ball control is probably a little bit better.”

McFatrich—whose team was outblocked 13-2 by Washington—thinks Hawai’i’s two outside hitters will essentially neutralize Washington’s four-hitter attack.

“If it comes down to it,” says McFatrich,“ my suspicion is that Washington has a leg up in the middle. I think Washington has the advantage.”

“We think we’re better (than in 2010),” Shoji said. “And we think we have a chance.”

“The tournament is different,” said McLaughlin. “I know everybody says you gotta treat it like another game. I don’t believe that. I think it’s a different game. It’s a chance to get hot. You have to keep the routines the same. The bigger the game, the more the distractions. These guys just have to learn to have a tighter focus on what they’re doing. You just have to control your emotions a little bit better.

“Of all the teams I’ve coached going into the tournament, I feel really good about this team.

  • Washington star outside hitter Krista Vansant saw her first action since badly spraining her ankle two weeks ago in the win against Oregon. She played in just the first two sets, taking just 9 swings, many of them off-speed. Her cross-court kill to end the first set, however, was as powerful as any she’s hit this season. “She’s not firing at 100 percent, for sure,” said McLaughlin. “But she’s gotten better every day. We wanted to give her a little time. The team knew they would have to carry some of the slack while she gets her bearings back. She should be better tomorrow (against Hawai’i.)”
  • When Hawai’i All-American Emily Hartong learned last week that the Rainbow Wahine would be returning to Seattle, she said she remembered Alaska Airlines Arena as “a small gym and packed with fans.” After the Santa Clara win, Hartong laughed about returning to an arena that seats up to 10,000. “For some reason, I thought it was a lot more compacted and smaller. But I remember it being just filled with fans, and maybe that’s why I got that impression.”
  • Last night’s attendance of 3,588 was, frankly, a disappointment. The match had to compete with the 3A high school football championship and the Pac-12 football championship. It also had to compete with gridlocked traffic in a driving rainstorm. The author of the Hawai’i volleyball blog, Not by Reason, is in Seattle and wrote: “I was in the Pacific Northwest a few weeks ago and when I found out I would need to stay for a couple more days than scheduled, I nearly jumped into Puget Sound.”
  • Many Seattle fans were intrigued by Central Arkansas’ nickname, the Sugar Bears. UCA’s men’s teams are known simply as the Bears. (see: Sweet stats and Sugar Bears.) “We love the name, said McFatrich. “We wanted to make sure Washington, and their fans, remembered Sugar Bear volleyball. The name, I think, helped a lot. And I’m hoping our play helped some, too.”

WRITTEN BY Jack Hamann | PHOTOS BY Leslie Hamann

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