Saturday, October 26, 2013

Pac-12 | What we learned from Washington volleyball’s win against UCLA

Variety make a difference as Huskies win in LA for first time since 2009
  • #3 Washington def. UCLA 3-1 (25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 25-13)
  • next: #3 Washington @ #4 USC | October 27 | 5PM |Pac-12 Networks

It takes more than one hitter to beat the Huskies.

Friday night in Pauley Pavilion, UCLA’s Karsta Lowe was that one hitter. She took 39 swings and connected for 21 kills, dominating all but the final set in a 3-1 Washington victory (25-23, 21-25, 25-23, 25-13).

Washington and UCLA players meet at the Pauley Pavilion net
-Pac-12 Networks
But hitters like Lowe are on the front row for only half the rotations. Eventually they get all the opponent’s defensive attention if a team doesn’t spread the offense to other options. And Lowe couldn’t do it on her own.

Washington’s usually-dominant serve and pass game was erratic on this night, as it suffered strings of too-easy serves and uncharacteristic receiving gaffes. During the first three sets, Bruins’ setter Megan Moenoa found Lowe seemingly at will, and the 6-4 junior pounded the ball over, around and off the block. In crucial runs during the second and third sets, Lowe almost single-handedly kept UCLA in the match.

Washington coach Jim McLaughlin talks with Lianna Sybeldon during a fourth set timeout
-Pac-12 Networks

The key, it seemed, was to let Lowe get her swings, while shutting down the rest of the UCLA attack. Washington’s block was huge, getting 15 stuffs, including 8 block assists from Melanie Wade and 7 from Lianna Sybeldon. Bruin hitters Maddy Klineman (.152) and Kelly Reeves (.138) committed 11 hitting errors between them, many on Huskies’ blocks. UCLA middles Zoe Nightingale and Mariana Aquino were rarely a factor.

Once the Huskies solved their serve/pass problems, their more varied offense allowed them to counterpunch with increasing effectiveness. In each of sets two, three and four, Washington’s hitting percentage and side-out effectiveness rose, while the same stats for UCLA dropped. Krista Vansant finished with 16 kills, Kaleigh Nelson with 13 kills and Sybeldon with 12.

Sybeldon, in particular, proved an effective weapon. Both of her setters—Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals—called her number in key moments, often stopping UCLA rallies with emphatic quicks. As she has all season, the sophomore plays offense with a contagious enthusiasm, taking pressure off the pins when tall opponents try to bunch the block.

Washington's Cassie Strickland (8) blocks UCLA's Karsta Lowe during the fourth set
-Pac-12 Networks

In the end, however, it was Vansant who made the difference. Tied at 23 in the third set, the junior slammed a Jenna Orlandini bump for a kill that seemed to shake the Bruins’ defense. In the fourth set, Vansant made the most out of every opportunity, serving tough, digging slams, powering her attack and even shutting down Lowe, who was held to just three kills—and committed three errors—in the final frame. The final set was a rout, and ended a three-year losing streak in Los Angeles (both at UCLA and USC) for Washington.

The Huskies are now 8-1 in the Pac-12 and tied with USC for the conference lead. Washington and Southern Cal will meet in Galen Center Sunday afternoon at 5PM to break that tie.

  • Half of Washington’s roster is from California, so there were big contingents of family and friends wearing purple and gold in Pauley Pavilion.
  • In other Pac-12 play, the biggest result was in Boulder, where Colorado remained undefeated at home by beating Arizona 3-0 (25-17, 25-18, 25-23). Just last Sunday, Arizona handed then-number one USC its first conference loss. In Berkeley, Cal dealt a big blow to the Oregon Ducks with a 3-2 victory (15-13 in the fifth set), while USC swept WSU and Stanford swept Oregon State.

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