Huskies open Pac-10 volleyball play
No. 7 Washington Huskies open Pac-10 volleyball action at Oregon State and Oregon.
Special to The Seattle Times
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The Washington volleyball team opens Pac-10 play with road matches at Oregon State on Friday and at Oregon on Saturday (both 7 p.m.).
The seventh-ranked Huskies (11-0) are in a familiar position in coach Jim McLaughlin's 10th season at UW — a talented team in a tough conference with potential to go deep into the NCAA tournament.
For the past three seasons, Washington's squads exuded similar potential yet fell short of the Final Four. The Huskies made three straight Final Four appearances from 2004 through 2006, winning the 2005 national championship.
"This could be the team that does it," McLaughlin said of returning to the Final Four. "We've got seniors who have never been to a Final Four, so there's a lot more incentive on the table.
"Our emphasis now is finding greater consistency in all phases, and we're getting there. We still have our glitches, but we're maturing.
"When we get a team on the ropes, can we finish the deal? Can we turn balls in transition, stuff balls at the net? We blocked 10 balls in one game at Pittsburgh, so I like the way the pieces are coming together."
In UW's favor: experience at key positions. Three seniors have excelled in nonconference play.
Setter Jenna Hagglund, the Pac-10 player of the week, averaged 12.8 assists during a three-match tournament at Pittsburgh last week. She also recorded an uncustomary nine kills, all without an error.
Outside hitters Kindra Carlson and Becky Perry have been strong and steady. Carlson ranks fourth in the Pac-10 in kills per set (4.18). Junior middle blocker Bianca Rowland ranks third in hitting percentage (.479).
"We're passing the ball much better, and our quick hitting has improved," McLaughlin said. "Jenna is really doing a good job keeping our hitters in rhythm. I'm happier with our offense than I have been in last couple of years."
McLaughlin admires Perry's solid play (29 kills with just five errors last weekend) after she missed three matches earlier this month to attend her older sister's funeral. Tiffanie Perry was killed in Texas in an apparent murder-suicide involving an ex-boyfriend.
"She a remarkable kid, a focused kid, a tough kid," McLaughlin said of Becky Perry. "Her play has gotten better and better. I don't know if I could do it, but she's doing it and it's remarkable.
"It's not over for her. It'll never be over. But she's got a good Seattle family here with her teammates and we're going to help her through this."
• The Huskies have yet to be challenged. The combined record of their first 11 opponents is 57-89 (.390). McLaughlin: "I'm not too concerned about that. We'll have plenty of resistance in conference play. It's more about us than opponents. I want to see that we're doing the correct things with greater regularity."
• Washington is the only team to not lose a set in nonconference play. In 33 sets in 11 matches, UW opponents reached 20 points just seven times.
• Oregon (12-0; ranked No. 15) needed five sets to beat two opponents (Portland State and Seattle U.) that UW swept. Oregon State is 7-7. A live video feed of the Oregon State opener will be available free at gohuskies.com.
• Four Pac-10 schools are ranked in the top 10, led by No. 1 Stanford; six are in the top 15. Stanford stunned three-time national champion Penn State with a 3-0 sweep in a tournament in Florida.
• The Cardinal (9-0), with three strong seniors (including 6-foot-4 Alix Klineman) and one of the nation's top freshmen (Rachel Williams), also swept No. 12 Texas. USC (10-0) is ranked No. 6; California (10-0) is No. 8.
• Washington State junior Meagan Ganzer, a Tahoma High School grad, leads the Pac-10 in kills per set (6.08). The Cougars (6-4) open Friday at Oregon.
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