Saturday, November 30, 2013

Pac-12 | Vansant leads Washington volleyball to Pac-12 title

Huskies await NCAA tournament announcement
  • #5 Washington def. Washington State 3-0 (25-21, 25-21, 25-14)
  • next: NCAA Tournament Selection | December 1 | 6:30PM | ESPNU

Before she could kill it, she had to pass it.

In all six rotations, Washington uses the same three passers on serve receive: Krista Vansant, Jenna Orlandini and Cassie Strickland. Because Orlandini and Strickland have exceptional defensive skills—and because Vansant is usually the Huskies’ #1 offensive option—teams usually try to serve at Vansant.

Washington players celebrate winning the 2013 Pac-12 title
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography

 In Washington’s 3-0 sweep of Washington State, the Cougar servers once again took square aim at Vansant. But her pinpoint passing gave setters Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals all the time and options they needed to stay one step ahead of WSU’s determined effort.

More than not, the setters chose Vansant. Getting 35 of the team’s 99 attempts, Vansant connected for 19 kills, not committing her first error until well into the final set. Tellingly, many of the sets came while she was in the back row, refining an option the Huskies may need in the upcoming NCAA tournament.

With plenty of opportunities offered by good passing, Nogueras and Beals spread the rest of attack nicely, sending double-digit attempts to Kaleigh Nelson, Lianna Sybeldon, Kylin Muñoz and Strickland. Nelson was particularly effective, hitting with the confidence and power she showed a couple weeks ago in the win against USC.

The win capped an 18-2 league record, and earned the Huskies their first conference title since 2005. They will certainly host the first two rounds of the NCAA tournament, starting next week, and should lay claim to one of the four regional top seeds.

  • UCSB had a chance to win the Big West title outright, but dropped a 3-2 decision to Long Beach State. The Gauchos face UC Irvine tonight needing a win to guarantee at least a share of the title. Hawai’i and Cal St Northridge are currently tied with UCSB, but Santa Barbara owns the NCAA automatic bid tiebreaker if they end up tied with either or both teams. If all three win, all three would likely earn bids. Hawai’i is at Cal State Fullerton; Northridge is at UC Davis. All three Big West matches are at 7PM.
  • Yesterday, Duke took the ACC title with a win over North Carolina. In the Big East, Marquette meets Creighton for the title today at 3PM (Pacific), though both teams will be in the NCAA tournament. The winner may nab a top 16 seed and therefore the chance to host the first two rounds.
  • In the Missouri Valley Conference, Wichita State and Southern Illinois square off at 2:30 (Pacific), with the winner getting a bid. Tonight, the Big Sky entrant will be the winner of tonight’s match between Portland State and Idaho State. The winner of that match could be headed to Seattle for the first two rounds.
  • Today’s most interesting matchup will be in Lincoln, where Nebraska hosts Big Ten champ Penn State at 5:30 PM (Pacific). Both teams will be top 16 seeds, but a Penn State loss would have implications for the top seeds in each of the four regionals. Simply put, the winner of that match will probably not be in the same regional as Washington. The two teams have not met since October of last season, when #4 Nebraska upset #1 Penn State 3-2 in Lincoln. Nebraska has a 13-8 all-time record against the Nittany Lions.

Photos courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

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