Thursday, September 25, 2014

College | Washington volleyball’s Sybeldon and Scambray jump high, hit hard

Power hitters key win in Pac-12 opener
#4 Washington def. Washington State 3-0 (25-21, 25-18, 25-15)
  • Western Washington @ Seattle Pacific | Thu, Sept. 25 | 7:30PM
  • #4 Washington @ California | Fri, Sept. 26 | 8PM | Pac-12 Networks
  • Simon Fraser @ Seattle Pacific | Sat, Sept. 27 | 7:30PM

Washington's Lianna Sybeldon attacks last night against Washington State
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

There’s a moment—a split-second—when a hitter sees the ball set her direction. In that instant, her task is simple: leap high, and hit with authority.

But the human mind can do plenty of things in that sliver of time. Think. Overthink. Think bad thoughts. Washington coach Jim McLaughlin has a word for it: clutter.

Washington's Cassie Strickland reacts to a missed ball against WSU
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
“It’s human nature,” McLaughlin says, “to think weird stuff and let the clutter in. And you just can’t compete at a high level with clutter.”

In Wednesday night’s conference opener against Washington State, freshman outside hitter Tia Scambray was, in McLaughlin’s view, clutter-free. With the Huskies leading 11-8 in set one, Scambray sailed a ball beyond the Cougars’ end-line. It was her first and last hitting error of the match. For the next two-and-a-half sets, the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week pounded the ball on the way to 12 kills on 18 attacks and just that one error (.611).

“She was dialed in,” McLaughlin said of Scambray’s performance. “She didn’t have clutter going on. She has very direct thoughts, deliberate thoughts, simple thoughts.”

Right next door on the Washington front line is another athlete who seems equally dialed in this season. Sophomore middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon turned in yet another stellar performance, totalling 8 kills and 1 error on 13 attempts (.538). The single error was a tip attempt toward the very end of the match. Like Scambray, Sybeldon’s usual M.O. is to absolutely pound the ball whenever she can.

“I think we can set her more,” said McLaughlin, who praised Sybeldon’s ability to get open in transition. “When she’s got an approach—and most of the time she does—we’ve gotta recognize that and feed her.”

Washington's Tia Scambray receives a serve in a 3-0 sweep of Washington State in Seattle
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Melanie Wade, Sybeldon’s fellow middle blocker, continues to lead in an unlikely category. After 12 matches, the Huskies score more points when Wade is serving than in any other rotation. That’s an amazing stat, considering the 6-4 junior must play back-row defense after each of her serves. But McLaughlin says he’s not surprised at Wade’s success.

“It starts with the serve,” he says. “Mel tends to get ‘em in trouble. Then there’s less variables, and we get to better spots. We get to be where we want to be. Mel makes it easy for us to do what we want to do.”

Washington players celebrate a point against Washington State
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

The first and last matches of each Pac-12 volleyball season pit rivals. Here are the other results:
  • #18 Arizona def. #19 Arizona State 3-2. A thriller in Tucson, as ASU wins set four 27-25, but UA takes the final set 15-13, after trailing 7-4.
  • #20 UCLA def. #9 USC 3-0. Bruins hand Trojans their fourth loss in their last five matches. Playing at home, Southern Cal commits too many errors and has no answer for Karsta Lowe.
  • #1 Stanford def. California 3-0. In Palo Alto, Cal makes the second set interesting, but hits just .122 for the match, and can’t stop Inky Ajanaku.
  • #13 Oregon def. Oregon State 3-0. In Eugene, the Beavers don’t go quietly, committing just 9 hitting errors to 22 for the Ducks, and out-blocking Oregon 11-2. Digs make the difference, 63-40 Ducks.
  • Tonight: Utah @ Colorado

  • #3 Penn State def. #5 Wisconsin 3-0. A huge blow to the Badgers, who pack their Madison arena with more than 6,000 fans.
  • #2 Texas def. West Virginia 3-2. Yikes! Longhorns rally from an 0-2 deficit in Morgantown, WV
  • #17 Minnesota def. Ohio State 3-2. In Minneapolis, the Buckeyes overcome four set-four match points and 18 ties to force a fifth set. #3 Penn State visits the Gophers next.

Led by Great Northwest Athletic Conference Player of the Week Madi Cavell, the Division II Seattle Pacific Falcons welcome longtime rival Western Washington tonight at 7:30PM in Royal Brougham Pavilion. Both teams are off to a great start, each is 9-3. Both lost to conference leader Alaska Anchorage. Cavell leads the conference in kills/set (4.07), while Western’s Samantha Hutchinson is the GNAC digs leader (7.11/set).

In Verona, Italy, the US National Women’s Team is now 3-0 in the first round of the 2012 FIVB World Championships. Team USA defeated the Netherlands 3-0, behind 14 kills each from Christa Harmotto Dietzen and Kim Hill, plus 13 from Jordan Larson-Burbach. Alicia Glass was USA’s starting setter today, but Courtney Thompson saw plenty of action each set in relief.

Team USA setter Courtney Thompson (3) watches teammates Nicole Fawcett and Kim Hill
collide while attempting to salvage a tough pass during USA's 3-0 World Championships victory over Netherlands
-photo courtesy FIVB

Pool play continues tomorrow at 11AM (Pacific) as USA takes on Thailand (1-2). All matches are streamed live (and free) on

  • The annual “Civil War” matches between Oregon and Oregon State are now known as “the 2014 Civil War presented by PacificSource Health Plans, The Oregon 529 College Savings Network, McDonalds, Spirit Mountain Casino and Your Local Ford Stores.” Kinda rolls right off your tongue, doesn’t it?
  • Making the social media rounds this week is a quote worth pondering:

“Your child’s success or lack of success in sports
does not indicate what kind of parent you are.
But, having an athlete that is coachable, respectful
a great teammate, mentally tough, resilient,
and tries their best,
IS a direct reflection of your parenting.”

One source attributes the quote to Jim Schreffler, the name of a high school coach in Iowa.


  1. Hutchinson at WWU is a stud and WWU is good again this year. Seems like a team with some resolve.

  2. I would be interested to know what their vertical and attack jump heights are along with Krista and Kaleigh's


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