Thursday, October 2, 2014

College | Washington vs. USC was a volleyball mismatch

Trojans aren’t yet able to piece together their puzzle
#4 Washington def. #19 Southern Cal 3-0 (25-15, 25-20, 25-19)
  • Texas-Pan Am @ Seattle U | Thu, Oct 2 | 6PM
  • #20 UCLA @ #4 Washington | Fri, Oct 3 | 7:00PM | [no TV]
  • New Mexico St @ Seattle U | Sat, Oct 4 | 1PM

Washington's Crissy Jones (28) launches one of her 7 kills in UW's 3-0 win against USC Wednesday night in Seattle
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Washington’s 3-0 sweep of Southern Cal last night was more dominant than the final score indicated. And it reminds us how much volleyball success depends on having all parts in working order.

Former Trojan Natalie Hagglund was as quality a libero as the conference has seen in several years. A three-time First Team AVCA All-American, Hagglund was the catalyst for USC’s offense. Her pinpoint passes and amazing digs assured her setters had a multitude of options in the Trojans’ high-powered offense.

Washington's Krista Vansant (16) tips against the USC block
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Last night, Washington faced a USC team whose options were consistently limited. Both Krista Vansant (14 kills, 4 blocks) and Lianna Sybeldon (7 kills, 9 blocks), pointed out how rarely Southern Cal’s two setters were able to go to their middles—just 14 combined attempts, resulting in 4 kills and 4 errors (.000). Erratic passing and poor digs meant that most sets went to the pins, where Washington’s blockers gobbled up SC’s attack all night (15 UW blocks vs. only 5 for USC).

Veteran coach Mick Haley—who’s never before had a Trojan team lose 6 times  in 7 matches—said after the match that he wants more from his setters, Alice Pizzasegola and Hayley Crone. Although Haley was determined to speed up the offense this season, it’s very much a work in progress. Both Vansant and Sybeldon said USC seemed to revert to its tradition of high sets, a tactic that works best when the Trojans have a bigger threat in the middle.

USC is now 0-3 in the Pac-12 and 7-6 overall. 5 of its losses have been to ranked teams, but a team must finish above .500 to qualify for the NCAA Tournament. Haley says Friday’s match in Pullman is crucial, and he may be right. A loss there would mean the Trojans have no room for error the rest of the season.

Other match notes:
  • UW Freshman opposite Crissy Jones had the biggest match of her young career, connecting for 7 kills and no errors on 10 swings (.700), adding 4 block attempts. Coach Jim McLaughlin praised Jones’ work ethic, telling reporters “she’s better than I imagined when I recruited her. Incredible intangibles. Incredible ability to fight through the learning process.”
  • Sybeldon, a middle blocker, had another in a string of big performances. On defense, she now leads the nation in blocks per set (1.80), adding 9 block attempts against the Trojans. On offense, she prefers to attack the ball with authority, bringing fans to their feet with powerful swings (7 kills, 1 error on 14 attempts, .429). “I want her to be a First Team All-American,” McLaughlin says. “There’s a lot more she can do, however.” One surprising example: Sybeldon rarely tips the ball, because she enjoys pounding a good set whenever she can. “Tips have never really been a go-to shot for me,” she admits. “But Jim says it’s a good tool to have.”
  • If you watched last night’s match on the Pac-12 Networks, you may have detected that the commentators seemed a little … distant. In fact, they were—about 900 miles distant. As the Networks have done on previous occasions, they opted to save money by having their announcers watch the video feed from Pac-12 headquarters in San Francisco, and call the match from there.

And speaking of the P12N, if you hope to see UCLA’s Karsta Lowe—currently leading the nation (by a mile) in kills per set—battle the Huskies this season, then forget your TV. Friday’s UCLA at Washington match will not be televised by the Pac-12, nor will the rematch Halloween night in LA. If you want to see Huskies vs. Bruins this year, you’ll need to be in Alaska Airlines Arena this Friday.

Our colleague Terry Wood has a match report in this morning’s Seattle Times. As sometimes happens, his full report had to be trimmed for space. Here is an extended version:

Huskies send USC packing in straight sets
By Terry Wood
Special to The Seattle Times

The Washington volleyball team keeps meeting new challenges with impressive results.

Taking on a team that was a preseason pick to be one of the Pac-12’s best teams, the fourth-ranked Huskies excelled in nearly every phase of play Wednesday night as they speedily dismissed 19th-ranked USC 3-0 in front of 2,282 at Alaska Airlines Arena.

Washington's Melanie Wade (R) attacks on a slide against USC's Samantha Bricio (2, in white)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Washington (14-0, 3-0 Pac-12) began the night as one of just five unbeaten Division I teams left in the country, and coach Jim McLaughlin’s squad showed few signs of weakness in a convincing 25-15, 25-20, 25-19 victory.

“We took care of a good team and played well,” McLaughlin said. “We were mature. We prepared well, had good energy, good focus, our effort level was high. We made good second-effort plays. We’ve just got to keep getting better.”

UW, which has had to endure seven five-set battles in its previous 13 matches against USC, was on this occasion awfully good against the Trojans (7-6, 0-3), a talented steam that is experiencing a rare slump, losing six of its last seven matches, five of them against top-20 opponents.

The Huskies had just two hitting errors in each of the first two sets while USC piled up 16 -- a dozen of them the result of UW blocks. Washington outblocked USC 15-5 and led in digs (45-37) and kills (43-32).

Ranked seventh nationally in hitting percentage, the Huskies hit .330 against USC; the Trojans hit .108. UW now has four straight wins against USC, the longest streak in program history.

“I think we were really prepared,” said senior Krista Vansant, who led UW with 14 kills. “We watched a lot of film on them and kind of knew their tendencies.”

The Huskies held second-team All-American Samantha Bricio to a .184 night (12 kills and five errors on 38 attacks) and trailed only briefly in the early stages of the second and third sets.

What’s working so well for Washington? “Our camaraderie is really good,” Vansant said. “We’re gelling on the court super-well.

“I don’t know,” she added. “Jim always says we’re good, not great. We’ve got a lot of good parts. When we serve and pass and we can set quick, it’s pretty hard on a defense.”

Junior middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon was especially tough on USC, pounding down seven ferocious kills on quick sets by Katy Beals and Bailey Tanner and adding nine block assists. Freshman right-side hitter ripped seven kills on 10 error-free swings.

“We’re never working on hitting the ball lighter,” Sybeldon said with a smile. “The sets are great this year. They’re up high in a good spot, and that makes it easier for me to see the block and hit good shots.”

Note: UW hosts No. 20 UCLA Friday at 7 p.m. and will aim to cool off the nation’s leader in kills per set, 6-foot-4 senior Karsta Lowe.


  1. Great job ladies. Cassie is quickly learning her new role and getting a lot more digs and passes she was missing in prior matches. Scambray and Jones are really promising. The service errors are killing us especially those 4 that Tanner threw up. I understand Cassie's error's with her low percentage jump serve. We'll need every serve when we meet the likes of Stanford and the Ducks.

  2. A live video stream of the UCLA at UW match will be available through

    1. Could be, but hard to tell. At the moment, nothing about a live stream on either the main page or the schedule page of the Washington Volleyball official website, and no mention in the recap of the USC match.

  3. That is number 2 Samantha Bricio for USC blocking in your picture not Ebony Nwanebu. You spelled her last name Nwenabu.

    1. What is that play called that Melanie is doing where the middle wraps around the OH? We see Inky do that a lot with cross court kills. Nice to see Jim mixing in some new plays.

    2. Most folks call that play an "X" or a cross. UW runs it when the outside hitter has rotated to the front right position. If the play is called, the middle and the OH will cross, and if the pass to the setter is good, the Huskies usually set the OH in the middle.


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