Monday, September 15, 2014

College | Washington volleyball among dwindling list of undefeated

Several teams fall from the unbeaten ranks
  • #10 USC vs. #4 Wisconsin @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Thursday, 9/18 | 5:30PM
  • Maryland @ #5 Washington | Thursday, 9/18 | 8PM
  • #10 USC vs. Maryland @ Alaska Airlines Arena | Friday, 9/19 | 5:30PM
  • #4 Wisconsin @ #5 Washington | Friday, 9/19 | 8PM

Washington's Jade Finau (22) sets Krista Vansant in the Huskies'
3-0 victory against Seattle University
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
After losing just 5 combined matches (63-5) the first two weeks of preseason, Pac-12 teams dropped 7 more matches in week three. Even so, 7 Pac-12 teams are among the top 22 of this week’s AVCA coaches’ poll, including #1 Stanford and #5 Washington.
The notable week three wins include
  • #14 Oregon (8-0) beat both #25 Michigan State and Michigan in Eugene. For the second week in a row, the Ducks’ Frankie Shebby is the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week.
  • #22 UCLA (6-2) beat Hawai’i (6-3) in Honolulu. All three Rainbow Wahine losses this season are at home at the hands of Pac-12 teams. UCLA’s Karsta Lowe has been named Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week for the second week in a row, and leads the nation with 6.42 kills/set.
  • Utah (9-0) beat upstart Lipscomb in Nashville, a team with surprise wins this season against #24 Kansas and Missouri.

There were, of course, those seven losses.
  • #10 USC (6-2) lost at home to both Texas A&M and to #7 Florida. Both matches were squeakers—the Trojans lost in 5 to the Aggies (16-14 in set 5), and the set scores against the Gators were 25-23, 25-23, 25-22.
  • #18 Arizona State (8-1) was swept by Louisville in Morehead, Kentucky. Louisville (5-4) is an odd team, handing both ASU and Minnesota (8-1) their only losses of the season, yet losing to 2014’s Cinderella team Appalachian State (11-0), and Northern Illinois (6-4).
  • #20 Arizona (8-1) lost in three sets to #2 Texas, in Austin.
  • Oregon State (8-1) had its 8-match winning streak snapped 3-1 in Corvallis by #25 Michigan State, one night after defeating Michigan 3-2.
  • Washington State (7-2) was swept by #16 Illinois in Murfreesboro, Tennessee.
  • California (7-2) lost at home in three to Pacific (7-2), a team whose only losses have been to USC and Oregon State.

There are two giant matchups this weekend with national implications. On Saturday, #9 Nebraska (5-2) hosts #2 Texas (7-0). But an even bigger clash comes the night before, when #5 Washington (9-0) hosts #4 Wisconsin, Friday night at 8PM in Alaska Airlines Arena.

Both teams reached the Final Four in Seattle’s Key Arena last December; the Huskies lost to Penn State in the semis, and Badgers lost to Penn State in the finals. This season, both are undefeated. Wisconsin has one signature win so far, sweeping #8 Colorado State (9-1) in Fort Collins. Washington’s biggest victory was in Provo, a five-set win against #12 BYU (7-2). Wisconsin features sophomore sensation Lauren Carlini, a unanimous preseason selection as the best setter in the Big Ten. Carlini is currently ninth in the nation with 11.67 assists per set. The Badgers rank first in the nation with 15.67 kills per set, and sixth in hitting percentage (.315)

Washington, however, has the best hitting percentage in the country, attacking at a stellar .372 clip. Junior middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon has the 12th-best hitting percentage in the nation (.477) and fourth in the nation with 1.77 blocks/set. Senior Krista Vansant ranks 20th in hitting percentage (.430) and #27 in kills/set (4.27)

Washington's Tia Scambry (20) against Seattle University
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
The Huskies’ biggest weapon, however, may be their serve. Over the weekend, Washington’s three 3-0 home victories over Seattle U, UC Davis and UNLV were highlighted by long serving runs by several players. In particular, juniors Katy Beals and Melanie Wade continued the tough serving both developed last season, delivering hard, flat serves deep into the opponents’ corners. Serving could likely be the deciding factor in the Wisconsin showdown.

The Pac-12 now leads the Big Ten 9-4 in head-to-head play this preseason, with two of those losses suffered by Washington State (to Northwestern and Illinois.)  [CORRECTION: Colorado, not Washington State, lost to Northwestern.] The four matches at Alaska Airlines Arena will conclude the series, as Washington faces Maryland Thursday and Wisconsin Friday, and USC meeting the same two teams on the opposite days. [CORRECTION: The final match in the series is Colorado vs. Illinois in Saturday's Creighton Classic.] USC will be smarting after two close home losses to Texas A&M and Florida. Wisconsin will try not to look ahead to its conference opener—a rematch of the NCAA title game against #3 Penn State in Madison. Maryland (7-2) is a conference newcomer this season, joining Rutgers (5-4) to bring 14 teams to the Big Ten.

Seattle Pacific opens its conference season tomorrow night at home, hosting St. Martin’s at 7PM. The Falcons are riding high after a 6-2 preseason, including a 3-1 record over the weekend in San Rafael, CA. Senior Madi Cavell is off to a blazing start, recording 116 kills, while senior setter Sara Biondi may have convinced head coach Chris Johnson to run a one-setter offense this season with her 9.75 assists/set average.


  • Washington setter Bailey Tanner sat out the Huskies’ three matches this weekend. The redshirt freshman suffered concussion-like symptoms after being accidently hit in the face with a volleyball during practice, and was held out as a medical precaution. Fellow redshirt freshman Jade Finau stepped in to join junior Katy Beals in Washington’s two-setter offense.


  1. Washington State didn't play Northwestern.

    1. Thanks for catching this, Nick. It was Colorado, not Washington State. Correction made.

  2. Will Bailey be able to play this week?

    1. Last week, Coach McLaughlin said he expected Tanner could be cleared for practice this week.

  3. Hoping to make it to the Friday games. Have we seen the end of the BOOM!? AKA Cassie's big serve. I hope not, she really gets things rocking when she hits it.

  4. Love the blog! but the Pac-12/Big 10 matches don't finish just with the Seattle matches, Colorado is playing Illinois this week too....Frankly, I'm gunning for an upset there, Go Pac-12!

    1. Sorry for the Colorado/Illinois oversight. Correction made. Thanks for calling it to our attention.


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