Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Pac-12 | UW begins 2013 Spring Training

Huskies looking for answers to several questions

The calendar reads April, but it could have been December.

Coach Jim McLaughlin’s Washington volleyball practices rarely vary, whether it’s the first training session of spring, or final preparation during postseason.

Coach Jim McLaughlin gathers his team at the whiteboard for the first day of spring training.
Players (L to R) include Krista Vansant, Kim Condie, Jenna Orlandini, Cassie Strickland, Katy Beals, Justice McGraw, Melanie Wade, Lianna Sybeldon, Jenni Nogueras, Kylin Muñoz and Gabbi Parker
When 11 athletes entered the gym Monday, coaches did little talking and players went full out. Launching drills the veterans have done hundreds of times; Monday’s strategy was the same as it always is: maximum touches for the maximum number of athletes in conditions that replicate game-like situations. Almost every touch is recorded, graded and tallied.

“We’re playing for points,” McLaughlin said in a quiet voice, “and it starts today.”

At first glance, this would appear to be a straightforward spring for McLaughlin. Only two starters graduate, but both—Kelcey Dunaway and NCAA blocking leader Amanda Gil—played the same position: middle blocker. So the most obvious question is: how well will next season’s sophomore middles—Melanie Wade and Lianna Sybeldon—fill those openings?

McLaughlin seemed comfortable last season using two setters—junior Jenni Nogueras and freshman Katy Beals—in large part to take advantage of his two outstanding right-side hitters, senior Kylin Muñoz and sophomore Kaleigh Nelson. With Muñoz being granted another season, McLaughlin will have to decide: does it make sense to continue the 6-2 (6 hitters, 2 setters) offense?

Over at outside hitter, things could get interesting. All-American Krista Vansant will fill one slot, but McLaughlin will want to know: can senior-to-be Gabbi Parker knock off sophomore-to-be Cassie Strickland for the second outside hitter slot? Or will Parker compete for one of the middle positions?

Jenna Orlandini enters her final season likely to remain the team’s libero. And if McLaughlin sticks with the 6-2, there will be very little playing time available for a defensive specialist, the spot that could go to Kim Condie. The question could be: is Cassie Strickland the libero of the future?

Lianna Sybeldon jumps for a back row attack as Katy Beals, Cassie Strickland and Jim McLaughlin look on
This summer, the Huskies will welcome two highly-touted California freshmen, Carly DeHoog and Bailey Tanner. A third player, likely a local setter, should join them. DeHoog looks like a right-side hitter for the future, and Tanner may end up on the left side. And so, can either freshman challenge for playing time in 2013?

After a spirited, but error-filled outside hitter drill, McLaughlin called the team to the whiteboard. “I know this is day one, but I want to do that drill again. And let’s do it better.”

“No team in the nation,” he told them, “will work harder this year than we will.”

  • Associate Head Coach Leslie Gabriel was not back in the gym after maternity leave. New assistant coach Keegan Cook spent much of the session watching and learning. “I’ve got my UW gear,” he said, “and I’ve got film (of last season’s matches). I’m ready to go to work.”
  • Kaleigh Nelson missed the first day of spring training, recovering from a non-injury illness.
  • The USA Men’s Sitting Volleyball Team announced it will honor those killed or injured by the Boston Marathon bombing. "We were horrified to read and learn of the tragedy in Boston," team member Charles Swearingen (Gulfport, Miss.) wrote in an e-mail from Costa Rica. "We have decided to wear black bands on our legs as a tribute to those who lost life and limbs in this attack." Many of the men and women who compete in sitting volleyball are amputees; their empathy for the Boston victims is touching and, we’re certain, heartfelt.


  1. >“No team in the nation,” he told them, “will work harder this year than we will.”

    That is their goal every year: to work hard and improve.

    So what?

    That's not a real goal. That is not what sports is about.

    Their goal should be to win. Win the Pac-12, win the NCAA championship, get to the Final Four, or anything else that involves winning.

    You can't win championships unless you think you can -- unless you set goals and having a burning desire to win.

    UW had that when McLaughlin first got here. He established a goal by saying that they would win a championship within five years -- and they accomplished it. They might have better players now, but they are not correctly motivated. Since they won the NCAA title, it seems like he has given up, that he is scared of setting goals to win championships, because he doesn't think they can.

    McLaughlin needs to get his act together on the mental side of the game.

  2. Middle attack is the key for the success of this year’s offense. Our middle blockers need to take at least 50% of total offense load. The 6-2 was just not working for middle attack, needs to go back to 5-1.

  3. This is a great program. The goals have never changed.
    1. Graduate every player
    2. Finish in the Top 3 in the PAC 12 every year. This gives the team the
    opportunity to compete for the national title.
    3. Prepare players for the US National team.

    Every goal has been achieved year after year.


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