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Monday, November 30, 2015

College | Washington volleyball dinged by tournament selection silliness

Huskies victimized by a flawed seeding system 
  • Fri | 5:00PM | Michigan St. vs. Arkansas St @ Alaska Airline Arena 
  • Fri | 7:30PM | Denver @ #1 Washington 

Thursday, November 19, 2015

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Monday, October 5, 2015

College | In battle of unbeatens, Washington volleyball loses round one to USC

Destiny Julye has another big night, but it's not enough to overcome Samantha Bricio's 27 kills 
#2 USC def. #5 Washington 3-1 (25-16, 22-25, 25-21, 33-31) 
  • Wed, Oct 7 | 7:30PM | #14 Arizona @ #5 Washington 
  • Fri, Oct 9 | 7:00PM | #6 Arizona St @ #5 Washington 

Washington's Destiny Julye gets one of her 15 kills against USC's block
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

LOS ANGELES—In Mick Haley's opinion, Keegan Cook was gutsy. 

USC's legendary head coach was impressed when Washington's first-year coach scrambled his first set lineup at Galen Center Sunday afternoon. With his leading hitter, Courtney Schwan, sidelined after her ankle was injured during Friday's 3-0 victory at UCLA, Cook tried something new. He moved Crissy Jones from opposite to outside, and had Bailey Tanner hit opposite in the front row and set in the back row. "He (Cook) did something that probably most coaches wouldn't do," said Haley, admiringly.  

But the decision was a disaster. Jones struggled mightly in that first set—1 kill and 2 errors on 14 swings—as USC blew past UW 25-16. And so, as the second set began, Cook returned Jones to her usual opposite position, and inserted freshman Destiny Julye on the outside.  

Even more than she did Friday when she replaced the injured SchwanJulye made an immediate impact. She recorded 6 kills and an big stuff block to lead Washington to a 25-22 second set win"Keegan was very smart to go back to something more familiar to his players so they could play freely," said Haley.  
"I just told her to hit high and hit hard," said Cook. "She was really swinging." 

Washington's Cassie Strickland celebrates a point against USC
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Facing undefeated USC--now the nation's number one team--on the Trojans' home court, Washington had much to be pleased about. Lianna Sybeldon had another strong match, tallying 10 kills, most with authority. Cassie Strickland was again alert and physical on defense, leading by example with 15 digs while exhorting her teammates to cover blocks with amazing success. Tanner was an effective hitter and an even better setter. 

But the USC match offered evidence of where Washington has room to improve. Serving and passing—both Huskies trademarks—were off their usual standards. In part, the Huskies tried to serve Samantha Bricio as much as possible, with mixed results. Although Bricio seemed to tire in the first set, she caught her second wind after the break, something Haley credits to Bricio's offseason weight training.

USC's Samantha Bricio had 27 kills and 3 service aces against Washington
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
Sybeldon and Melanie Wade, UW's outstanding middles, needed to be more involved in the offense as both Jones and Tia Scambray had sub-par performances. Cook said that Wade, in particular, should have gotten more than 14 sets. 

Last season's 2014 team had few weaknesses, but in pressure situations, last year's hitters had a tendency to send across too-easy tips and roll shots when sets weren't perfect. Against USC Sunday, that same problem stepped in, as the Huskies seemed reluctant to try to tool blocks or hit high hands down the stretch. 

Except for Julye. The 5-11 freshman continued to blast away in the third and fourth set, eventually earning a team-high 15 kills. Even during one bad stretch in the fourth, she kept hitting hard, eventually landing more winners. Many were line shots off the block. "Julye really went off," Haley marveled. "She's really got to be tickled with her performance." 

Washington's Lianna Sybeldon tips over the USC block attempt
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann 
The fourth set brought full-throated roars from a USC crowd mixed with plenty of purple. A Julye kill tied it at 22; another Julye kill knotted it at 23. A barely-in Jones cross-court made it 26-26; and a Wade line-scraping slide brought it to 27-all. Trailing 29-30, Sybeldon sealed two consecutive blocks, first on Bricio and then on Alicia Ogoms. 

But the final three points went USC's way, on Bricio's 27th kill followed by two consecutive UW hitting errors. It handed Cook his first-ever loss as a head coach, and forces him to figure a way to extract lessons from defeat. Great teams, he said after the match, learn from adversity. Washington has plenty of potential adversity ahead, starting with undefeated Arizona State Friday night in Alaska Airlines Arena. 

And then there's USC. The Trojans will be in Seattle at the end of the month.   

  • Courtney Schwan remained on crutches. She says her left ankle would be fully evaluated on her return to Seattle. 
  • Only three teams remain undefeated in Division 1: USC, Arizona State and Kansas. Nebraska knocked off #1 Penn State in five sets Friday. On Sunday, Nebraska lost in five to Ohio State. 
  • The US Women's National Team won the NORCECA tournament in Mexico, and will play for the North American slot at the Rio Olympics at a separate NORCECA tournament in January. 

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