Sunday, November 23, 2014

College | At last: Washington volleyball faces Stanford

Season’s only regular-season meeting should decide NCAA top seedings
#5 Washington def. #22 Arizona State 3-0 (25-19, 25-11, 25-19)
  • #1 Stanford @ #5 Washington | Wed, Nov 26 | 5PM
  • #5 Washington @ Washington State | Fri, Nov 28 | 5PM
  • NCAA Selection Show | Sun, Nov 30 | 5:30PM | ESPNU

Arizona State's Whitney Follette(8) and Bianca Areliano (1) fail to block an attack by Washington's Tia Scambray (20)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

It was Sunday, barely past noon. Washington led Arizona 2-0 in sets and 22-11 in the third. Perhaps it was finally time for the Huskies to start thinking about Stanford.

“That's been the match all season that people have been talking about,” said Krista Vansant after the match. “We’re excited.”

“We’re pumped,” Kaleigh Nelson agreed.

Washington's Tia Scambray (20) and Lianna Sybeldon (10) block against an Arizona State attack
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

Stanford. Ever since 2001, when Jim McLaughlin arrived at Montlake and John Dunning started in Palo Alto, no other conference rivalry has had as much impact as Washington vs. Stanford. Consider:
  • In only one season, 2011, did either Washington or Stanford not finish first or second in the conference.
  • 2014 will be the seventh season since 2001 the two teams have finished 1-2 in the standings.
  • Dunning’s teams have a 17-9 advantage against McLaughlin’s teams in conference play, but Washington is 7-6 at home, including home victories 3 of the past 5 seasons.
  • The past three matches in Seattle have each gone the full five sets. Last season, UW won the final set 15-12. In 2012, Stanford prevailed 15-7 in the fifth. In 2011, it was the Huskies, 15-10.

Washington libero Cassie Strickland digs an ASU attack
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Sadly for college volleyball fans everywhere, the Pac-12’s unbalanced schedule eliminated this season’s Washington visit to Stanford. But that adds even more drama to Stanford’s Seattle trip Wednesday night, as both teams vie for number one seeds in the 2014 NCAA Tournament’s four Regions. If the Huskies prevail Wednesday, both teams should snare two of the four number one slots.

But let’s get back to that 22-11 lead in Sunday’s third set. The Huskies had been sailing. It was, to that point, perhaps their most complete match of the season. Kaleigh Nelson had 6 kills, completing a weekend when she had a combined 15 kills and just 2 errors on 25 swings (.520). Krista Vansant had 15 kills for another impressive weekend: a combined 32 kills and 4 errors on 62 attempts (.452).

But the real story against ASU was Melanie Wade. The junior middle blocker hit .909 for the match, 10 kills and no errors on 11 swings, adding five block assists, strong serving and great defense. She seemed utterly composed, and fully engaged in the mental side of the game.

“Mel’s unbelievable,” said McLaughlin. “One of the smartest kids I’ve ever coached. Ever. In 25 years as a head coach.”

Washington's Melanie Wade reaches high for an attack
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

“Her defense—in the back row and the front row—is always mind-baffling good to me,” said fellow middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon. “I don’t know how she does it.”

Washington coach Jim McLaughlin
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
In that third frame, it seemed Washington was about to rack up a second straight 25-11 set. Tia Scambray had been on a tear, in one stretch recording six kills in her rotation across the front line. But at 22-12, Scambray was blocked. Two ASU serves later, she was blocked again. Two more serves, she was stuffed a third time. That late 7-0 ASU run—finally ending with a Courtney Schwan kill—was very much on McLaughlin’s mind right after the match.

“Regardless of who you’re playing, where you’re playing, when you’re playing, you can’t lose your edge,” he said. “It’s that mental intensity that allows you to see the things you’re supposed to see. Once you lose it, it’s hard to get back.

“It’s a good lesson to learn before the tournament.”

That said, McLaughlin at long last gave his players the green light to talk about Stanford. They did not shy from the subject.

“I’m looking forward to it,” said Sybeldon, working hard to conceal a big grin. “We’ve got to go into it ready to fight and battle, not expecting anything to be handed to us, not afraid of anything. I think we have to just go get it.

“I’m excited.”

  • Washington outblocked ASU 12-7. By our count, six of the Huskies’ blocks stuffed Macey Gardner, the Sun Devils best hitter. Gardner finished with 11 kills and 8 errors on 32 swings (.094) and Washington out-hit ASU .376-.090.
  • With Washington leading 18-10 in the second set, the two teams launched an extraordinary rally. Great digs on a series of strong attacks kept the ball in play for 15 trips across the net, until Lianna Sybeldon and Courtney Schwan ended it with a stuff block against Madison McDaniel. “I wish we had played that way the whole time,” said McLaughlin afterwards.


  1. We are so excited about the Stanford game. Go DAWGS!

  2. What a rich, impact full history these two coaches have shared. Thanks for summarizing it.

  3. And the local media coverage of this awesome team is non existent as usual. Truly pathetic. Go Dawgs!

  4. It was great to be there for the match against Stanford. I would hope that UW gets to stay in the Seattle regional and gets one of the #1 seed. They can send Stanford to the Minneapolis or the Ames, Iowa regional. It is kind of strange how both Minnesota and Iowa that is just south of Minnesota got half of the regional sites. Tia Scambray really came through and should get the award this week for the Pac-12 Freshman of the week and what can we say that has not been said about Krista Vansant with her all-around game. Some of the digs were quite spectacular by Cassie Strickland as well as her booming serves. Need to cut down on the serving errors because that is what cost them the 3rd set.


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