Saturday, December 6, 2014

NCAA | Hawai’i rematch is next as Washington volleyball rolls

Jade Finau fills in at setter and does just fine
#23 Hawai’i def. #21 Duke 3-0 (25-15, 25-19, 25-17)
#3 Washington def. New Hampshire 3-0 (25-9, 25-6, 25-18)
  • #23 Hawai’i @ #3 Washington| Sat, Dec 6 | 7:30PM

Washington players celebrate the first point of the third set in a 3-0 NCAA first round victory over New Hampshire
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

For the third time in the past five seasons, Hawai’i and Washington will meet in Seattle during the second round of the NCAA Tournament. Washington won the first two, 3-0 in 2010 and 3-2 in 2012. It’s a nice treat for Seattle volleyball fans, as two long-time national powers promise a more competitive match than the two we witnessed Friday night in Alaska Airlines Arena.

It’s rare that any team holds another to single digits in a set. Washington did it twice last night against New Hampshire, stopping the Wildcats at 9 points in the first set and just 6 in the second. Two of those second-set points were thanks to UW service errors, and a third was a Washington hitting error.

New Hampshire found its groove in the third set, tallying a respectable 18 points. By then, Coach Jill Hirschinger had switched to a two-setter offense, which allowed the Wildcats to put up a better block against the much taller Huskies. For the match, however, Washington dominated the stats as well as the score. UW outhit UNH .451 to .031, and ended with an 8-0 blocking advantage, and a 53-35 digging difference.

Hawai'i's Olivia Magill (9) tips during an NCAA first round victory over Duke
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
On paper, Duke vs. Hawai’i looked to be a close match. But from the very start, Hawai’i dominated the serve-and-pass game, and the outcome was never much in doubt. Duke setter Kelsey Williams—who leads the nation in assists per set, received such poor passes that she had few options other than the pins. Hawai’i’s blockers could all but ignore the middle, and ended with an 11.5-4 blocking advantage.

Conversely, Duke’s relatively easy serves allowed the Rainbow Wahine to spread the offense. Even so, star hitter Nikki Taylor had a poor performance, committing 6 errors on the way to a .129 hitting percentage. Olivia Magill, a Seattle Prep graduate, tallied 10 kills out of the middle, recording just 1 error for a .600 percentage.

Hawai’i’s freshman outside hitter Kalei Greeley left the match in the first set after a collision under the net with the Rainbows leading 18-10. Greeley, who is third on the team in most statistical categories, has had ankle issues all season. She was replaced by Ginger Long, who had only a modest impact (6 kills, 3 errors, 23 swings).

Interestingly, the campuses for Hawai’i and Duke are six time zones apart. For the Blue Devils, the match started at 8PM (Eastern Time) and for the Rainbow Wahine, it started at 2PM (Hawai’i Time).

Washington setter Jade Finau sets teammate Kaleigh Nelson (6)
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
With Washington setter Katy Beals sidelined for the tournament with a torn ACL, redshirt freshman Jade Finau did a good job in her stead, teaming with Bailey Tanner in UW’s two-setter offense. She was particularly impressive at the very start, when she repeatedly found Kaleigh Nelson on the right side. If anything, the mismatch allowed Finau to be on the court without the kind of pressure that may await as the tournament progresses.

Nelson and fellow senior Krista Vansant were unstoppable. Nelson had 12 kills, no errors on 18 swings (.667), while Vansant committed just one error on the way to 16 kills in 32 attempts (.469). And as Courtney Schwan had another decent night, Crissy Jones made a brief appearance in the third set, her first action since hurting her ankle two weeks ago before the Arizona match.

The Pac-12 Conference sent ten of its twelve teams to the tournament (all but Cal and WSU), and all ten won their first-round matches.

Stanford struggled to get past WAC champion Bakersfield (25-21, 25-21, 25-18), as outside hitter Brittany Howard left the match in the third set after apparently stepping on teammate Merete Lutz’s foot. Stanford faces Michigan State tonight. UCLA meets Long Beach State after a shaky 3-0 win over LIU-Brooklyn (25-23, 25-19, 25-18). Oregon State will reach the third round in Ames if it can get past Arkansas-Little Rock tonight in Topeka.

Two conference teams were eliminated last night, however, both in the second round. In Tempe, Arizona lost a 3-1 barn-burner to BYU (22-25, 25-20, 25-23, 25-23.) In Austin, Arizona State kept it close in a 3-0 (25-19, 25-20, 25-22) defeat at the hands of second-seeded Texas. Next week, Texas will play the winner of today’s Colorado/Colorado State contest in Fort Collins.

Oregon qualified for the Sweet 16 by defeating LSU. The Ducks will travel to Minneapolis next week to face the winner of today’s USC/North Carolina match in Chapel Hill.

Sometime early in tonight’s Washington/Hawai’i match, we’ll know which time the winner of that contest will play next week in the Sweet 16. Utah meets Nebraska in Lincoln for that honor, starting at 6PM (Pacific). If Washington prevails tonight, its next match will either be the team that effectively kept them from a share of this season’s Pac-12 title (Utah), or the team that clobbered them in the third round two years ago in Omaha (Nebraska). The postseason rivalry with the Cornhuskers, of course, borders on epic, with a split of two supercharged matches in Seattle: Nebraska’s come-from-behind 3-2 win in 2008, and Washington’s emotional 3-1 upset win in 2010.

Two of the teams coming to next week’s Seattle Regional are already set: BYU will face Florida State before the Washing/Hawai’i winner squares off against the Nebraska/Utah winner.

A Nebraska/Washington rematch would undoubtedly attract a huge crowd, but tonight’s Hawai’i/Washington match shouldn’t be too far behind. Last night’s attendance of 3,705 was an all-time record for a first-round match in Seattle. In 2012, the Rainbow/Huskies match drew 3,709, a record for a second-round Seattle match.

Attendance at the five Pac-12 host schools last night:
3,705     Washington
1,190     UCLA
1,515     Arizona
1,543     Stanford
1,966     Oregon
Other attendance of note:
6,535     Nebraska
5,613     Wisconsin
5,399     Colorado St
2,924     Texas
1,720     Penn St
1,622     Florida


  1. WASHINGTON IN A WIPEOUT We played a community college caliber team. A 50 year old nun would have had a good night against UNH.

  2. At times it seemed like the Huskies were ready to go home before the match was over. It's good that Krista got them moving by means of a couple of booming kills. Kaleigh does this often as well. We're going to miss those seniors. Next year our great middles are going to have to play this leadership role.

    Impressed with Jade Finau. She has a lot riding on her back all of a sudden, and seems determined to keep us headed in the right direction toward the championship.

    Leslie does a great job with her photos!

  3. Other attendance of note:
    So I have to ask, why did you leave out Hawaii, is it because you hate them ? Avg. Attendance 6,357 , Accum Attendance-120,776.

    1. At Volleyblog Seattle, we try our darndest not to hate anyone. The attendance figures in this post are from last night. Hawai'i, of course, did not host last night. Our hats are always off to Hawai'i's amazing fans, home and away ...

  4. Nice reporting. I like your style. Also nice to read a coach's perspective. Excited for this team - pretty dang solid passing and D. Everyone has been steady all year so no reason to think they'll change, even with the youth. Now redshirt frosh x2, and 2 trues in lineup! OMG. How great have they been?! Keep up the great work, Hamann's and Huskies!!


[It's okay to comment as "Anonymous," but please feel free to share your name and/or alias.]

Have your friends discovered Volleyblog Seattle? Number of unique visits: