Saturday, October 8, 2016

College | Courtney Schwan leads Washington over Oregon

Schwan's serving, attacking hand Ducks their first Pac-12 loss of 2016 

  • #8 Washington def. #20 Oregon 3-0 (25-20, 25-18, 25-23) 
Washington outside hitter Courtney Schwan
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

EUGENE—Oregon was up 23-21 in the third set, on a 6-2 run. Washington's Crissy Jones, who'd had a sub-par night, rose to stuff Oregon's Lindsey Vander Weide to close the lead to one. 

And Courtney Schwan stepped to the line. 

Schwan, a junior outside hitter, was riding one of the best nights of her career, slamming 14 kills and 3 errors on 42 swings. But all season, her serving had struggled. It was something she had worked hard all week to correct.  

"Find a seam," she said, repeating a mantra. "Pick a girl you're going to go after and hit no spin after no spin. Good serve after good serve." 

UW's Kara Bajema (15) puts up a block during a 3-0 win at Oregon
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

And so she served. The rally that followed was epic, with extraordinary defense on both sides. UW setter Bailey Tanner reached back to punch an apparently hopeless ball back into play. Freshman libero Shayne McPherson made an eye-popping athletic dig. Finally, junior outside hitter Tia Scambray connected on her 9th kill of the match, sending Schwan back to the line with the score tied at 23. And once again, she repeated her mantra. 

"Contact the ball a lot higher," she told herself, "and hit it on the heel of my hand." 

She served an ace. 

Oregon's Lindsey Vander Weide (8) is aced by UW's Courtney Schwan
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann
On a team with no superstars, Schwan is too often overlooked. She attacks with discipline and precision, and against the Ducks, she was keenly aware of attacking the angles. 

"Oregon is a great defensive team with big blockers on the outside," said Washington coach Keegan Cook "I thought Courtney attacked the cross-court with a lot of power and a lot of confidence. Man, she took some tough swings in some tough situations." 

"I saw that the block was moving outside on me," said Schwan, "so I kept hitting sharp (across court.)" 

More than that, Schwan was connecting with the ball at its highest point, often hitting above the block and slamming the ball not far from the ten-foot line. "It's footwork and keeping the ball in front of me," she said, even though some of her most impressive kills came when she had not fully completed her transition. And more than in previous seasons, Tanner is willing to set her in the back row. 

"I do like hitting back row," Schwan said, with a smile. 

Another Schwan skill—passing—was a big reason UW won each of the first two sets rather easily. Much was due to the emergence of McPherson, who has improved enough that teams are forced to serve all three Huskies' passers: McPherson, Schwan and Scambray. "They tried to target Shayne early on," said Cook, "and she held up. The whole night. We want to have three good receivers, where opponents don't get to key in on any one person. And tonight we had that. That's a story in and of itself." 

By the third set, Oregon had improved its own passing enough to keep it close. But UW never stopped serving Vander Weide, acing her four times, including Schwan's floater to make it 24-23. The final point went to Jones, only her fifth kill of the night. Despite hitting just .083, Jones had a great night at the service line and made several stellar digs to keep long rallies alive. In fact, winning long rallies may have made the difference in the final set. 

"When one part of their game isn't working," said Cook, "great players find a way to contribute."  

For Oregon coach Jim Moore, another frustrating night against Washington
-Volleyblog Seattle photo by Leslie Hamann

  • The Huskies got a scare when freshman middle blocker Kara Bajema went down with an apparent ankle injury just before the post-second set break. After receiving treatment in the locker, she ran back out onto the court with her teammates at the start of the third. "They taped it up," said Schwan, "and Kara said, 'Let's go!' She's definitely a fighter." "We had about 15 seconds left (before the start of the third set) to write a number on the lineup," said Cook. "She said, 'Give me a shot.' She's got some grit." Bajema finished with 12 kills and just 3 errors on 20 swings (.450). 
  • In a season of anemic Pac-12 volleyball attendance, Oregon's Matt Court had a decent—and often loud—crowd of 3,136. There were, however, very few UW fans in the arena, despite the fact that the Huskies play Oregon in football the next day. Were UW football fans planning to drive down to Eugene Saturday morning? Or did the UW Athletic Department do a poor job letting its pigskin loyalists know that they could have supported Huskies volleyball while they were in Eugene? 


  1. Barnett. And that stooge ESPN brought to call the 'play by play.' Anyway. Shayne! And I wasn't hoping Kara was hurt bad, but I kind of wanted to watch Kameron McLain.

    For a while last season Tia figured out how to get the ball in front of her and she was lethal, but it looks like she's regressed . . . although she's been designated clean-up hitter in this early season of sketchy passing.

    Krista Vansant helping in practice is kind of a story to me . . . when they have time to practice.

    Never get tired of watching Schwan 'use her eyes' in the McLaughlin tradition. A kill's a kill. Love it when Holly McPeak calls games and recognizes Courtney's beachy 'mom ball'. That roll shot from the 10 foot line late in set three was cool.

    Oregon's libero Amanda Benson was a big reason everybody but Courtney was getting dug. It's nothing but good for Shayne to play against elite liberos like Benson, Taylor Formico, etc.

  2. we were in Portland, and had planned to attend both volleyball matches plus football game. However with the late start time of 8PM, plus a 1 and 1/2 hour drive each way from Eugene, figure by the time we got back to bed, wouldn't have much time for sleep before heading back for football game. We did attend the Ore St game on Sunday.
    I thought Keegan Cook sent a very loud and clear message to both Scambray and MacPherson in the Cal game, when he made Scambray the Libero for the first two sets.

  3. Leslie and Jack, Great to see a post on here! Hope all is going well. I particularly enjoyed your "flattering" pic of Jim Moore. Summed up that match for sure. This has been a fun year so far with a lot more parity across both the Pac-12 and NCAA in general. Seems like you never know who's going to win on any given night no matter who the teams are. Good for volleyball in my opinion.

  4. Well you pretty much called it. Schwan came up huge against UCLA. I liked how she mentioned that serving her just helped her hitting times I was just watching her play past-set-hit with Tanner, who'd simply set elsewhere if they camped on Courtney. It's great to have balanced hitting but it's even better when you have a Terminator to open everyone up.

  5. Hope all is well with you. Miss your excellent volleyball news.


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