The game within the game: service risk/reward pays off for just one team
- #3 Washington def. #4 USC 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17)
- next: #3 Washington @ #6 Stanford | November 20 | 7:30PM | Pac 12 Networks
Jumps serves are high risk/high reward.
Friday night in Alaska Airlines Arena, both Washington’s Cassie Strickland and USC’s Samantha Bricio took plenty of jump serve risks. In the end, Strickland and her teammates earned the reward. A highly-satisfying 3-1 (25-15, 21-25, 25-21, 25-17) victory earned the Huskies (23-1, 15-1) a two-game lead over the Trojans (22-4, 12-3) in the Pac-12 title chase.
|Washington's Cassie Strickland (8) celebrates a point in the Huskies' 3-1 win against USC|
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography
To start their serves, both Strickland and Bricio stand about as far back from the endline as they can, and toss the ball perhaps 20 feet in the air. Pitched at the right trajectory, the ball heads down a couple feet inside the court. Each server builds momentum with carefully-rehearsed footwork, leaping high as they approach the endline, and essentially spiking the ball with as much power as they can muster. A ball that generates topspin and barely clears the net is next to impossible to pass cleanly.
Bricio entered the match leading the nation in both total aces (63) and aces per set (.73). But on this night, it was Strickland’s serve that made the difference. How big was the discrepancy?
- In the first set, won 25-15 by UW, Strickland got four points off her serve, Bricio had none.
- In the second set, won 25-21 by USC. Strickland again served for four points, Bricio just one.
- In the third set, won 25-21 by UW, Strickland had five points, Bricio none.
- In the fourth set, won 25-17 by UW, it was Strickland one, Bricio none.
That, folks, is a 14-1 advantage by the jump server wearing purple.
|USC coach Mick Haley speaks with Samantha Bricio|
-photo by Shutter Geeks Photography
Both players recorded just one service ace for the match. Bricio, however, served only 8 balls, ending 5 of her opportunities with service errors. Strickland had 3 service errors of her own, but served 22 times on the night. Time and again, the Trojans struggled to pass Strickland’s rockets, forcing USC’s harried setters to chase down balls that were often set too close to the net and/or into the teeth of the UW block. For the match, the Huskies had a monster 19-7 block advantage, including three solo blocks from Lianna Sybeldon, and 7 block assists each from Sybeldon and Melanie Wade.
After a slow start, Bricio was an offensive force, recording 21 kills, the same as Washington’s Krista Vansant (who had a combined 35 kills this weekend against UCLA and USC.) But Bricio’s passing was such a liability—she was aced three times and shanked several other attempts—that USC coach Mick Haley was forced to sub her out of the back row in the final two sets. Since USC (like Washington) runs a 6-2 offense, Haley ran out of substitutions in the fourth set, long after the outcome was certain.
By contrast, Strickland continued Washington’s season-long talent for smart passing and fearless digging. Combined with Vansant and libero Jenna Orlandini, Strickland helped the Huskies remain in system far more often than the Trojans, allowing setters Jenni Nogueras and Katy Beals to spread the attempts along the length of the net, and—increasingly—for back row attacks.
USC was probably the most talented team to play in Alaska Airlines Arena this season, but like so many others before them, it was the lunchbucket basics—stuff you can’t find on a stat sheet—that made the difference. For the first time since 2008—and only the second time ever—Washington went 4-0 against UCLA and USC. They’ve never gone 8-0 against the four California schools, but will get that chance this Wednesday at Stanford and Friday at Cal, before ending the conference schedule at home on either side of Thanksgiving Day against Oregon State and Washington State.
- There were plenty of reasons to expect a disappointing crowd last night—bad weather, rush hour Friday night traffic, the high school state volleyball championships and a competing televised UW football game. But on the heels of a small audience Wednesday for UCLA, Friday’s crowd of 4,274 was mighty impressive.
- The Huskies are now 23-1, matching their best-ever record at this point in the season. The 2005 National Champion team lost just one match—their 21st match that year at UCLA. Stanford and USC both have 3 conference losses; Stanford lost to Washington in Seattle and was swept by USC while the Trojans lost at Arizona and were swept by UW. The Cardinal still have road matches at Oregon State and Arizona, plus home games against Washington, WSU, and Cal. USC travels to WSU and UCLA, and hosts Arizona, Arizona State and Colorado.
- HISTORIC SWEEP: In Tallahassee, #7 Missouri remained undefeated (30-0) as it swept #5 Florida 3-0, opening a two-game lead in the SEC. It was, incredibly, the first time that Florida has ever been swept at home in SEC play and just their sixth home SEC loss under head coach Mary Wise … in 23 seasons. In 2009, UW beat Florida 3-0 in a nonconference match played on a neutral court downstate in Tampa.
Photos courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography