Saturday, August 31, 2013

Pac-12 | Huskies beat Boise State as volleyball season begins

Washington runs offense through the middle; Vansant awakens | Nation’s #1 team falls in Hawai’i
#5 Washington def. Boise St 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-16)
  • next: #5 Washington @ Portland St | August 31 | 12noon
  • #5 Washington vs. Gonzaga | Portland | August 31 | 5PM
  • Seattle University @ #5 Washington | September 3 | 7PM

One of the biggest questions of 2013 will be: can Washington replace last season’s middle blockers?

On Friday night, the answer was a qualified “yes.”

Washington setter Jenni Nogueras delivers a backset against Boise State as Melanie Wade (5) looks on
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography
The Huskies graduated only two starters last season—middles Amanda Gil and Kelcey Dunaway—and replace them this season with two sophomores, Melanie Wade and Lianna Sybeldon. In a routine 3-0 (25-18, 25-16, 25-16) victory over Boise State at Portland, both sophs stepped up.

Wade delivered 9 kills and no errors on 13 swings (.696) and Sybeldon added 7 kills on two errors on 12 attempts (.417). With senior Gabbi Parker adding 2 more kills (and 3 block assists) during her third set stint in the middle, the Huskies ran a lot of offense right up the interior.

Whenever setters get lots of balls to middles, credit is owed to passers, who have to deliver enough quality passes to allow plenty of quick sets, slides and combinations. Washington continued its two-setter offense, with Jenni Nogueras particularly effective, delivering 23 assists and guiding impressive runs from the service line.

Coach Jim McLaughlin gave several hitters playing time. Krista Vansant, Kaleigh Nelson and Cassie Strickland all spent time on the outside, while Parker, Nelson and Kylin Muñoz all shared the right side. Vansant started slow, recording 5 kills and 5 errors in the first two sets. But she added 6 kills and no errors in the final frame, to finish with 11 kills, tops in the match.

Pac-12 has good first day
Pac-12 teams went 10-1 on the first day; Colorado lost 3-1 at home to St. Mary’s (25-17, 25-16, 22-25, 25-19); Washington State did not play. 8 of the 10 victories were 3-0 sweeps; #4 USC took four sets to beat #16 Purdue at West Lafayette, and Utah needed 5 sets for a home court victory against Utah State.

#1 Texas falls before 10,000 fans
Friday’s big news came from Honolulu, as defending National Champion Texas fell to #11 Hawai’i 3-1 (2519, 19-25, 27-25, 25-16). Emily Hartong led the Rainbows with 18 kills; Hawai’i held Texas to .262 hitting, including just .184 in the third set and .143 in the fourth. Attendance in volleyball-mad Hawai’i was just under 10,000.

Sugar Bears triumph
In another Top-25 upset, Central Arkansas beat #20 Kansas 3-1 (25-21, 16-25, 26-24, 26-24) in Tucson. In last season’s NCAA Tournament, Washington defeated Central Arkansas and Hawai’i in the first two rounds. The Sugar Bears—featuring talented setter Marissa Collins—take on Arizona Saturday morning.

Seattle U splits
After a nice 3-0 win against Texas Tech, Seattle University lost 3-0 (25-21, 25-20, 25-21) to host Weber State in Ogden, Utah. Iris Ivanis (11 kills) and Martina Samadan (10 kills) led the Redhawks’ attack, which averaged just .171 for the match. On Saturday, Seattle U faces UC Riverside before heading to Alaska Airlines Arena to take on Washington Tuesday night.

Berendt shines in debut
Olympia’s Michaela Berendt, a freshman at Villanova, had impressive numbers in her first collegiate match, a 3-1 loss to Oregon State. (25-22, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17). Berendt had 7 kills and 1 error on 10 swings (.600), adding 4 block assists. Saturday morning, Oregon State went 2-0 on the season, defeating Central Michigan 3-0 (25-22, 25-21, 25-18).

Illinois wins, loses
The presumed marquee match of Washington’s preseason will come September 13 at Illinois. Friday, the Illini upset #18 Florida State 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23), then promptly lost to host Long Beach State 3-1 (16-25, 25-19, 25-22, 25-17). Florida State turned around to beat #17 Kentucky 3-0 (27-25, 25-23, 25-20).

Cal State Northridge wins
Another Washington preseason opponent, Cal State Northridge, surprised WCC power Santa Clara, squeaking out an impressive 3-0 win (25-23, 25-22, 26-24). Northridge comes to Alaska Airlines Arena September 20.

Team USA loses fourth in a row
Continuing its poor run after reaching the World Grand Prix finals, USA suffered a stinging 3-2 (19-25, 25-22, 23-25, 25-18, 16-14) loss to Italy in Sapporo, Japan. USA led 14-10 in the fifth set, but gave up the final six points of the match, many on unforced errors. Kyla Banwarth took a turn at libero, and Jenna Hagglund saw brief action in all five sets. Kelly Murphy—a star through much of the month-long Grand Prix—had her worst match of the summer, with 9 errors to go with her 13 kills. Usually-reliable Kristin Hildebrand also struggled (18 kills, 10 errors), as hitters had a tough time getting into synch with setter Alicia Glass, who had 6 digging erros, 4 blocking errors and 2 setting errors for the match. After losing just one match all summer, USA has now dropped four in a row, with a final match tonight against host Japan.

USA hitter Kristin Hildebrand jousts against Italy in the World Grand Prix finals
-photo courtesy FIVB

Photos courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

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