Saturday, October 11, 2014

College | Cassie Strickland bombs away against the Beavers in Pac-12 Volleyball win

Washington’s libero ignites a 9-0 run that proves decisive
#3 Washington def. Oregon State 3-1 (25-21, 25-20, 23-25, 15-13)
  • #3 Washington @ #11 Oregon | Sun, Oct 12 | 11AM | Pac-12 Networks

Washington libero Cassie Strickland (8) celebrates with teammates during a 3-1 victory at Oregon State
-photo courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

It was the first set in Corvallis. Oregon State led 20-15. Jack turned to Leslie and said, “Well, this set is over. No way Washington’s gonna pull off a 10-3 run.”

“You’re wrong,” Leslie said. “Just watch.”

Jack was wrong. It wasn’t a 10-3 Washington run, it was a 10-1 Washington run. The Huskies won the first set 25-21, and went on to win the match 3 sets to 1. Washington is now 16-0 (5-0 in the Pac-12). Perennial conference doormat Oregon State (12-4, 2-3) showed, however, that it is poised to move up the ladder.

Jack was wrong because Cassie Strickland was on fire. The junior libero bombed nine straight serves, including four aces, to close out that first set. Her powerful jump serves were right on target, forcing Beavers’ libero Darby Reeder to pass on her right side—a sure-fire way to shank the ball, as those of you who remember the volleyball passing mantra “left is right and right is wrong” will recall.

Washington libero Cassie Strickland (8) digs a ball in Corvallis against Oregon State
-photo courtesy Shutter Geeks Photography

Jump servers are becoming a rare breed, both in the NCAA and internationally. The serve is high-risk/high-reward, but most players do a better job keeping opponents out of system with a flat, deep float serve. In last week’s tight victory over UCLA, Strickland switched to the float when her jump serve was missing too often. But against OSU, she was back in her groove, keeping Oregon State defenders on their heels and destroying their setter’s offensive rhythm. As Leslie had predicted, the Beavers began to doubt themselves. “You could see it in their body English,” she said. “It was uh-oh, the Huskies are on a roll.”

Strickland’s success seemed to light a fire under the Huskies’ other servers—particularly Krista Vansant and Melanie Wade, as they pushed their flat serves deeper as the match wore on. That allowed Washington’s blockers to focus on fewer OSU options, resulting in 10 team blocks to just 4 for the Beavers. Lianna Sybeldon had 5 block assists; her fellow middle blocker Wade added 4.

After a slow start, Vansant built another stellar stat line, with 26 kills on 6 errors and 56 swings (.357). The Huskies’ other outside hitter, freshman Tia Scambray, added 13 kills as setters Katy Beals and Bailey Tanner made the best of poorer-than-usual passing. That, however, is a trademark of this team, able to set the middles and opposites when everything is humming, and confident in their outsides when they have to scramble.

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