Monday, September 9, 2013

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington volleyball’s two wins against Canada

Defense and adjustments are key to two wins against Canada’s National Team
  • #5 Washington def. Canadian National Team 3-1 (25-21, 25-19, 24-16, 25-23)
  • #5 Washington def. Canadian National Team 3-1 (24-26, 25-20, 25-16, 25-21)
  • next #6 Washington @ #14 Illinois | September 13 | 5:30PM (Pacific)

It was set four Friday night at Key Arena. With his team trailing the Canadian National Team 15-19, Washington coach Jim McLaughlin called time out.

Washington's Krista Vansant (16) and Jenna Orlandini (4) watch a Canadian serve head toward the back line at Key Arena
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography

All night long, Canadian outside hitter Shanice Marcelle had been attacking at will. She would end the night with 16 kills and just 4 errors on 38 swings (.316). Washington had let the third set slip away, and Marcelle seemed intent on sending the match to five sets.

“I want to see your uglier side when we’re down,” McLaughlin said in the huddle. “Anybody can play well when you’re playing well. But when you’re down, and how you respond to adversity, is the deal.”

Out of the time out, Kaleigh Nelson hit a left-side line shot off defenders’ hands to pull Washington within three. With Jenni Nogueras serving, Canada setter Jennifer Lundquist again went to Marcelle. This time, however, Kylin Muñoz was ready, and stuffed the attempt for a block and another point. On the sidelines, McLaughlin punched his fist. That, he later said, was the ugly he was looking for.

After a Muñoz kill made it 18-19, Canadian coach Arnd Ludwig called a timeout. Kim Condie, a Washington defensive specialist, pulled Nogueras aside.

“She told me, ‘Jennie, they’re not blocking much in the middle third,’” remembers Nogueras. “A combo might be really effective.”

A combo—combination—is one of several plays that puts the front row attackers in motion. It works best when passes are accurate, giving the setter plenty of options as her hitters cross from the outside to the middle or vice-versa. “Our outside hitters hit very well in that middle third,” Nogueras said.

A double block by Muñoz and Lianna Sybeldon tied the score at 19, followed by a smart soft kill by Marcelle. Nogueras signaled a combo, and on the next Canadian serve, her hitters ran a weaving pattern, leaving Canada’s blockers flat-footed. Nelson pounded the point crossing from right to the middle.

“We stopped thinking about hitters as left side, right side, or middle,” said Nogueras. “They’re just hitters. And we can play around where they go on the court.”

Two points later, another combo led to another kill, this time by Muñoz. In the face of a big block, Marcelle hit into the net. At 24-23, Gabbi Parker ran a final combo, this time with setter Katy Beals.

“Katy switched Gabbi,” said Nogueras. “Instead of having her in a red or a slide and getting her to the pin, she just set her on a quick in the middle.” Point. Set. Match.
Washington middle Melanie Wade (5) attacks a slide against Canada's Tabi Love (9) at Alaska Airlines Arena
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography
The 3-1 victory at Key Arena Friday was the first of a two-night double header against the Canadian National Team, with the second match Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena. On Saturday morning, the Huskies talked about how they might stop Marcelle.

“She’s a good, physical player,” said McLaughlin. “We just had to be patient. We had to give her more credit tonight than we did Friday, because she got away from us.”

“During the film session,” said senior libero Jenna Orlandini,”we noticed that Marcelle like to hit line. We decided to take advantage of that, and wanted to make her change her game.”

The plan seemed to work. In the first set, Marcelle did not record a single kill, despite 5 attempts. The defense keyed on her, including Nogueras.

“Jennie did a really good job of getting in there, muscling up, and taking a lot of hits,” marveled Orlandini. But Orlandini wasn’t bad herself, recording 28 digs the first night and 21 the second. Orlandini was selected Defensive Player of the Week by the Pac-12.

“We blocked better. We dug better, for sure,” said McLaughlin after Saturday’s match. “Our defense set up in better spots, from both the front row and the back row.”

Even so, Washington let the first set slip out of its hands, the second night in a row it had wasted two set points in a 24-26 set.
Cassie Strickland (L) and Jenna Orlandini go for a
pancake dig Saturday night against Canada
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photograph

“We have to fight when it’s down to the wire,” said McLaughlin. “It’s really hard. You get to set point, and points just get harder to come by.”

But the lockdown on Marcelle continued; she did not record her first kill until the fourth set, and finished with just two. Canada’s other two hitters— Lisa Barclay and former UCLA player Tabi Love—combined for 35 kills, but added 12 errors on 95 combined swings, many of them dug by Orlandini and her teammates.

After the second match, McLaughlin was particularly impressed by the all-around play of his sophomores—middles Melanie Wade and Lianna Sybeldon, setter Katy Beals and hitter Cassie Strickland. All of them, he said, understood the Huskies’ goal of running a quicker offense this year.

“Freshmen are now sophomores, and sophomores are better at all this; that’s when they make their biggest jump in their college career. They knew we needed to go quick last year, but we just didn’t, we didn’t kill it. We’ve worked on that, and tonight, we got a return on our work.”

  • Team Canada now heads to the NORCECA Championships in Omaha, where—among other North American teams, they’ll face Team USA, whose roster includes former Huskies Tama Miyashiro, Courtney Thompson and Jenna Hagglund.
  • The teams played collegiate, not international rules. For Canada, that meant many more substitutions were available, and, unlike the international game, they got a locker room break between sets two and three. The only exception to NCAA rules was that Canada was allowed to wear lime green plastic bracelets honoring Connor Richey, younger brother of hitter Kyla Richey, who died last month in an accident in Vancouver, BC.
  • The crowd at Key Arena was only 1,072. Tickets were advertised at $10, but several fans were surprised by as much as $8 in surcharges when they purchased advance tickets online through Ticketmaster. Attendance Saturday at Alaska Airlines Arena was 1,421.
  • While most Washington players use a float serve, Cassie Strickland still brings a powerful jump serve. The Canadians, who see similar jumps in international play, rarely seemed bothered by it. Although Strickland had just one ace, Washington held serve consistently when she was in the line, in large part because she brings plenty of defense. On Saturday, she split time with Parker in the front row.
  • The Huskies served up 15 aces in the two matches; 5 by Orlandini. UW picked on Tabi Love, who had a combined 10 serve receive errors.

Photos courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography


  1. It was fun to see the Dawgs playing in Key Arena, and nice to have a positive outcome both nights. It seemed like both teams learned about themselves from playing the other.

    Regarding tickets: I asked about the fees here, and as a result of Benjamin's answer bought ours at the Key Arena box office, where they state on the Box Office Information page: "No ticket fees charged at Box Office for KeyArena events."

    The Husky/Canada game must not have been a KeyArena event, because there was a $2 fee on each ticket. There must be a specific definition of "KeyArena event" that we didn't fall under.

    Otherwise, we look forward to seeing the Huskies there again, although the setter/hitter passing is going to have to improve to allow that outcome.

    On the positive side, the improvement in our serving is obvious and very much appreciated, while the excitement and reliability of Gil's blocking is missed. The blocks we did get were fun and needed.


    PS. Why do the real time stats on the Hec Ed scoreboard not indicate the blocks accurately?

  2. Stats at Hec Ed remain a work in progress.

    On Saturday, the stats monitors on press row were not working ... that happens once or twice each season.

    Two folks down at the scorers' table are responsible for the official stats, a mile-a-minute dialogue "serve 13, dig 3, attack 24, kill, assist 17" that depends on extraordinary typing skills.

    Transferring that to the scoreboard--or, for that matter, to live stat sites like GameTracker--takes a bit of dedication by the UW Sports Department crew. They might tell you they could always use an extra hand.


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