Monday, September 12, 2016

College | Huskies keep amazing nonconference streak alive with win in Hawai’i

UW has now won 77 nonconference matches in a row; Jones and Bajema honored as UW climbs in the polls

  • #6 Washington def. #14 Hawai’i 3-2 (25-23, 17-25, 28-26, 23-25, 15-13)
  • Sept 15 | 5PM | #5 Washington vs. Maryland @ USC
  • Sept 16 | 5PM | #5 Washington vs. Oklahoma @ USC

Washington's Tia Scambray jousts at the net during the Huskies' 3-2 win over Hawai'i in Honolulu
-photo by Hawai'i Athletic Department

There are plenty of reasons Washington has a hard time scheduling quality nonconference opponents. Last night offered another.

Despite playing on their home court in front of 6,856 fans, the Hawai’i Rainbow Wahine could not put away their Northwest nemesis, as Washington eked out the narrowest of victories, 3-2 (25-23, 17-25, 28-26, 23-25, 15-13). Watching the match on Hawai’i’s live stream, here’s what we saw:

  • The turning point came at the end of the third set, with the teams tied in sets at 1-1, and Hawai’i at the service line with a 24-20 lead. The Huskies won the point on a Crissy Jones kill, launching an 8-2 run that ended in a 28-26 UW set victory. The biggest star of the streak was outside hitter Tia Scambray, who landed three great serves—including deadly missiles down the line—to bring tie the score at 24. In all, Washington fought off 6 set points to win the third.

  • Jones was an enigma. The junior outside hitter recorded 22 kills with 4 errors on 60 swings (.300), earning tournament MVP and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week honors. She plays all six rotations, and may be one of the Huskies’ best back row attackers in several seasons. And yet, an eye-opening number of Jones’ front row attempts were tips. On the one hand, Hawai’i was not great at covering short attacks (see Nikki Taylor, below). On the other hand, Jones seemed to pass up far too many attempts to pound the ball, something an elite opposite simply has to do, even when sets aren't perfect.

  • Scambray and fellow junior Courtney Schwan will likely continue to be the most under-publicized outside hitter tandem in the nation. They are both outstanding passers, a growing Washington outside hitter tradition. Scambray attacks with abandon, even after making a hitting error. Schwan seems to be overcoming last season’s tendency to tip when under pressure, and smartly uses the block. Against Hawai’i, Schwan had 19 kills and just 2 errors (.415) and Scambray added 16 kills with 8 errors (.186).

  • For the first time in many seasons, Washington is running a 5-1 (1 setter) offense, and junior setter Bailey Tanner has been outstanding. Against Hawai’i, she ran a quick tempo offense that, frankly, asked a little more of her pin hitters than they were able to deliver. That could turn out great, however, as Scambray, Schwan and Jones have a chance to get into better position in transition, knowing that smart, quick sets are on the way, often creating attacks against single blocks. Tanner, like Wisconsin All-American Lauren Carlini, is comfortable across the front line, setting strong blocks and attacking when needed.

  • Kudos to two freshmen: middle Kara Bajema and libero Shayne McPherson. Hawai’i servers drilled McPherson in the second set, eventually forcing coach Keegan Cook to employ a two-person serve receive (Scambray and Schwan) in certain rotations. But McPherson hung tough, and had just one awful pass the rest of the way. Bajema—the Pac-12 Freshman of the Week—was terrific throughout, aggressively slamming over-passes, confidently pressing her hands over the net when blocking and playing scramble defense like a back row player. Washington will benefit as Bajema gets more comfortable on quicks, especially as Cook burns multiple substitutions for his MB2 platoon, Destiny Julye (attacking) and Avie Niece (blocking.)

  • Hawai’i outside hitter Nikki Taylor had a career-high 29 kills, but her 70 attempts took a toll. By the fifth set, she appeared to be bothered by pain in both her elbow and knee. During the Huskies’ final push, Taylor was unable to pick up tips or chase shanked balls, and was often hidden on serve receive. In a razor-thin match, Washington’s comparatively balanced attack proved the difference.

The win in Honolulu extends some pretty amazing Washington streaks.
  • UW has now won 77 nonconference regular season matches in a row.
  • The Huskies’ last nonconference loss was 8 years ago, on September 13, 2008, in Honolulu, when Hawai’i prevailed 3-2 (20-25, 27-29, 26-24, 25-14, 16-14).
  • Washington also lost to Hawai’i in Honolulu on September 7, 2002, by a 3-1 score (26-30, 30-22, 30-27, 30-28), a match where the Wahine’s Kim Willoughby recorded 38 kills.
  • Between 2002 and 2008, UW had just one other nonconference loss, to Texas on August 26, 2006 in Madison, WI, by a score of 3-2 (30-24, 23-30, 30-27, 28-30, 15-13).
  • Overall, the Huskies are a jaw-dropping 148-3 in nonconference regular-season matches since the first weekend of 2001.

And so … if you were an opposing coach of a top-tier team, how eager might you be to schedule a match in the far reaches of the Northwest against a team that almost never loses? Even in a year with no true seniors, playing on the road in front of a huge audience, the Washington Huskies find a way to win nonconference matches.

Washington is now #5 in the AVCA Coaches Poll and #4 in the FloVolleyball Poll. In both polls, Nebraska, Texas and Minnesota are #1, #2 & #3. Kansas is #4 in AVCA and #7 in FloVolleyball.

With UCLA’s loss to San Diego and Wisconsin’s loss to North Carolina, Washington (8-0) is one of only five remaining undefeated teams in the AVCA Top 25. #1 Nebraska is 6-0, #4 Kansas is 9-0, #9 BYU is 9-0 and #17 Santa Clara is 9-0.

Washington State is 8-1 in nonconference play. It’s only loss was to Purdue, a 7-1 team that beat Stanford this weekend. The Cougars beat UC Irvine, a team that swept USC 3-0.

The Cougars are hitting .307, seventh best among all Division 1 schools (Washington is #24 at .281). WSU is holding opponents to .116, #5 in the nation (UW is #52 at .162). Washington State ranks #7 in blocks per set, with 3.23 (the Huskies are #45 with 2.55.)

Washington starts Pac-12 play in 9 days, when it hosts WSU. But before and immediately after, UW makes two trips to USC’s Galen Center.

This Thursday and Friday, the Huskies play Maryland and Oklahoma, the third year of a four-year deal where the Terrapins and Sooners meet the Huskies and Trojans on rotating home courts.

USC’s Mick Haley is not a fan of the series—Wisconsin backed out after the first year of the series when the Badgers lost to both Southern Cal and Washington in Seattle. Haley hints that SC and UW are working on a new deal with higher-ranked opponents starting in 2018.

The strangeness of this week’s contests are that both Haley and Keegan Cook will be able to scout each other’s team just days before UW again travels to Galen to meet USC on September 23. Although Washington and Southern Cal tied for the 2015 Pac-12 title (both were 18-2), the conference’s ridiculous unbalanced schedule means that this will be the only UW/USC meeting of the season. Likewise, Washington will only see UCLA once, at home the night before Thanksgiving.

Sorry, Pac-12, that’s just wrong.


  1. Nikki Taylor was trying to block a bomb by Crissy Jones from the backrow (a pipe) in the 5th set, when she tweaked a left-elbow injury from earlier in the season, remaining in obvious distress for the rest of the set. Jones' hit was so hard that it caromed all the way past the back line, putting UW up 12-11. If Taylor's block had landed inside the court, it would have been Hawaii up 12-11, instead. So, a very pivotal point.

  2. Finally playing a 5-1. Go Bailey!!!

  3. random name generatorSeptember 16, 2016 at 8:35 AM

    Thanks for the coverage, Jack and Leslie!

    This team is so fun to watch.

  4. Pfft! We get a home game with Stanford at the beginning and UCLA at the end of the season, both on Wednesdays? And that's it? Wow.


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