Wednesday, September 17, 2014

College | Volleyball stars align this week in Seattle

All-Americans and rising talent on display at UW and SPU
  • #10 USC vs. #4 Wisconsin @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Thursday, 9/18 | 5:30PM
  • Maryland @ #5 Washington | Thursday, 9/18 | 8PM
  • Western Oregon @ Seattle Pacific | Thursday, 9/18 | 7PM
  • #10 USC vs. Maryland @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Friday, 9/19 | 5:30PM
  • #4 Wisconsin @ #5 Washington | Friday, 9/19 | 8PM

Volleyball is a consummate (some say THE consummate) team game. Even so, truly big-time players can occasionally take over a match. No other city has as many potential game-changers in town this week as you’ll see in Seattle.

Washington's Krista Vansant (16)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
The Huskies’ senior outside hitter is the reigning National Player of the Year. Last season, she upped her game by adding precision passing to her toolbox. This year, she’s shown an ability to battle back from slow starts—like a run of 8 kills in 9 attempts against BYU after an 0-for-10 start, finishing with 25 kills and a .346 average. As good as she is, her serving and back row attacks are still areas for improvement.

The senior opposite hitter came out of nowhere last season to earn a well-deserved Third Team All-American honor. Whether attacking on the right or the left, she hits very hard, and is impressively comfortable going line or cross. Most of all, Nelson tends to be the go-to finisher on long rallies or when the Huskies need to stop an opponent’s scoring run.

A supremely talented junior, the Trojans’ outside hitter was a Second Team All-American last season, and seems destined for more. Bricio’s numbers are a bit down so far this year, but when she’s hot, USC will set her from anywhere on the court. She’s consistently one of the top jump servers in the nation (currently #3 in aces/set,) though she goes through streaks with crucial service errors.

Last season’s National Freshman of the Year and First Team All-American, Nwanebu’s season was delayed this fall while recovering from an injury she suffered while playing with the US National Team in Switzerland this summer. The 6-4 outside hitter has a powerful arm and an ability to hit over the block.

A Second-Team All-American, the Badger sophomore is considered by many to be in the same class as Penn State’s exceptional Micha Hancock. In last December’s Final Four, Carlini wowed the crowd (and helped defeat heavily-favored Texas) with her size (6-2) and athleticism. Mostly, however, Carlini brings an infectious passion that seems to lift her teammates.

SPU's Sara Biondi (12) attacks with a setter dump
in last night's 3-0 victory against St. Martin's
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
An Honorable Mention All-American, Chapman is the Badgers’ best hitter this season, averaging 3.56 kills per set on a team that leads the nation with 15.67 kills/set. (Washington leads the nation in hitting percentage, at .372).

She’s a setter in a 6-1 (one-setter) offense, but the Falcons’ senior is not afraid to swing: Biondi already has 108 attacks in 33 sets this season—-connecting for 58 kills (.398). When she sets, she’s usually feeding senior outside hitter Madi Cavell, who connects on 3.85 kills per set (127 kills total). The Division II Falcons are off to a fast start—7-2.

  • Courtney Thompson was officially included on the final 14-player World Championships roster. The Washington Hall of Famer has picked up international caps all summer, teaming with Alicia Glass at the setter position. The World Championships begin next week in Italy.
  • FIVB—volleyball’s international governing body—is considering a wide range of rule changes, including decreasing the number of points needed to win a set from 25 to 21. For a complete list, see the article in USA Volleyball’s magazine by Minnesota head coach Hugh McCutcheon.

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