Huskies lead Pac-12 in attendance, but next five home matches are key
- #11 Oregon at #2 Washington | Fri, Nov 7 | 7:30PM
- Oregon State at #2 Washington | Sun, Nov 9 | 5PM
|Volleyblog Seattle graphic | 2014 attendance through 11/04/14|
After playing six of eight matches on the road, the Washington Huskies now look forward to five of seven at home. Despite an undefeated record (23-0) and lofty national AVCA ranking (#2), there are still questions to be answered … about Washington’s fans.
Through its first ten home matches, the Huskies have averaged 2,318 in attendance. While that’s still the best in the Pac-12, it projects (perhaps) to Washington’s lowest average since 2008, and the second-lowest in the past eleven seasons. What’s going on?
- Historically, Washington’s biggest regular-season draws have been Stanford, UCLA and USC. In early October, the two LA schools attracted 4,031 and 2,282, respectively. That combined total is typical for the Bruins and Trojans, but in 2004 and 2009 the two schools drew combined crowds in excess of 10,000. Stanford typically draws in excess of 4,000, but this season, the Cardinal come to town the night before Thanksgiving, when few students will be on campus.
- Across the Pac-12, the numbers are much the same. Over the past five seasons, attendance trends at Stanford, USC and Oregon—three of the biggest draws—are slipping. Middle-of-the-attendance-pack schools—Arizona, Arizona State and UCLA—are generally flat (though Arizona has a spike this year, and UCLA was flooded out of its home court most of the season.) Those at the bottom—Oregon State, Arizona State, Colorado, Utah and Washington State—are failing to pick up many new fans, though Colorado has a bit of an uptick. And California, a national finalist in 2010, has fallen off the attendance map since then.
- The Pac-12 Network, launched in 2012, has undoubtedly had an effect. On the one hand, fans can follow teams most of the season from their living room couches, and potential recruits around the nation can theoretically follow along. On the other hand, even die-hard fans struggle to make it to the home arena when match days and starting times are all over the calendar. The 20 conference matches on Tuesday, Wednesday or Saturday nights have drawn an average of 1,850; its 33 Friday night matches average 1,522; while the 18 Sunday morning/afternoon matches a mere 1,069. Washington’s home match this Sunday against surging Oregon State has an unusual 5:00PM start time.
- Nationally, Washington ranks 17th so far this season in average attendance. 7 of the top 11 are in the Big Ten, led by Nebraska’s 8,298. Hawai’i is second, at 6,120. Minnesota, with professional football, baseball, basketball and hockey teams in town, ranks fourth at 3,284, despite a 4-8 conference record. Schools like Northern Iowa, Colorado State, Wichita State and Louisville all rank higher in average attendance than any team in the Pac-12. The Pac-12, by the way, has a record 8 teams ranked in the latest AVCA national top 25.
Will Washington’s attendance improve over the next five home matches? In addition to that Stanford Thanksgiving showdown—which could feature #1 vs. #2, perhaps both undefeated—there is also rival Oregon this Friday, and the unpredictable Arizona schools in two weeks. Alaska Airlines Arena has hosted several electric volleyball matches over the years—remember Penn State in 2006? Nebraska in 2010? Oregon in 2012? UCLA last month? Frankly, watching on television can’t compare to the din in the Arena at match point of a five-set contest.
- Washington libero Cassie Strickland was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week. The award is overdue, but acknowledges her growing comfort at making impossible plays and lighting a fire under her team.
- Washington middle blocker Lianna Sybeldon ranks third in the nation with 1.60 blocks per set, ninth in total blocks (131) and is 17th in hitting percentage (.410). Krista Vansant is 15th nationally in kills per set (4.56), 39th in total kills (.369) and 14th in points per set (kills + aces + blocks).
- As a team, Washington ranks #3 nationally in hitting percentage (.323), #6 in blocks per set (3.10), #15 in total blocks (254), #19 in kills per set (14.13), 20th in assists per set (13.17), and 29th in aces per set (1.57).
- The Huskies’ 23-0 start matches their best start in history, first accomplished in 2005, when they lost their 24th (and only) match of the season at UCLA en route to the national title. Oregon, UW’s next opponent, handed the Huskies their first defeat of the season in 2012 and in 2010. In 2009, a late-season 3-2 (15-25, 21-25, 25-23, 31-29, 15-13) loss to the Ducks in Seattle cost Washington a share of the Pac-10 title.
- Colorado enters this week’s AVCA rankings at #21, joining #1 Stanford, #2 Washington, #11 Oregon, #15 UCLA, #16 Arizona, #19 USC and #20 Arizona State in the top 25. The Huskies travel to Colorado next Thursday, site of one of UW’s 3 losses last season.
- Washington and Stanford are tied for the Pac-12 lead with 12-0 conference records. Four teams—Oregon, Arizona, UCLA and Colorado—are tied for third with 7-5 records.
- Seattle University (10-13, 6-4 WAC) closes out its home schedule this Thursday at 6PM against WAC leader Missouri-Kansas City (21-4, 9-1) and Saturday at 1PM against Chicago State (6-20, 0-10).
- Seattle Pacific University (11-11, 5-9 GNAC) is likewise playing its final home matches this week, Thursday at 7PM against Central Washington and Saturday at 1PM against Northwest Nazarene.