Huskies Eagerly Anticipate Last Homestand

Nov. 16, 2006

By James Schleicher
The Daily

With just two weeks remaining in the regular season, the Washington women's volleyball squad has moved into a first place-tie in the Pac-10 title race with Stanford.

The Huskies (22-3, 12-2 Pac-10), who moved up to the No. 2 spot in the national rankings this week, will face off against third-ranked Stanford next week in Palo Alto, Calif.

Join the Huskies this weekend in their final regular-season homestand!

First, however, in its last home stand of the regular season this week, the UW has to make it past two other Pac-10 opponents: Arizona and Arizona State.

'I like where we are right now,' said senior Courtney Thompson. '[Monday] was a good practice and they're getting shorter and more efficient. It's a fun time. We're getting excited.'

With the NCAA tournament just two weeks away, the last few games and practices have plenty of importance.

'The second half of the Pac-10 is always tough,' Thompson said. 'You're tired in school. Then the tournament starts coming and we're in this Pac-10 race, and it's exciting. There is a lot of energy.'

Against the Wildcats (12-15, 3-12 Pac-10) Thursday, the Huskies will face a team that managed to win a game when the two teams met in October. The match featured 24 kills from junior Christal Morrison, and Washington eventually won that match 3-1 (30-21, 30-20, 24-30, 30-26).

'They're a great team, as everyone is in the Pac-10,' Thompson said. 'They're really physical so they can make the great plays; they can also make a lot of errors. I think if we stick to our game plan and not get too worried about what they're doing, we will do fine.'

Arizona uses its tall front-row players to try to shut down opponent attacks. Five of its players stand 6 feet, 2 inches or taller and are known for their ability to get above the net.

'One of their middles touches like 10 feet, 8 inches,' said junior Stevie Mussie. 'She's super physical. They have great outside hitters and are a really physical team.'

Middle blockers Jessica Swarbrick and Alesha Deesing will have a big role in stopping the Wildcat offense.

'I really think that our middles have stepped it up,' Morrison said. 'In practices they have been doing awesome, and [Thompson] has been really getting them the ball. They're running the offense well, so I'm excited to see them play this weekend.'

The team feels like they have improved a lot since the last time they met Arizona.

'Right now I feel like our team is definitely helping each other get better,' Mussie said. 'It's a lot more talkative in the gym; we're jawing at each other and helping each other overall to improve our game.'

In practice, coach Jim McLaughlin has started to stress small intricacies such as timing on hitting and seeing the ball better as the team prepares for the tournament, Mussie said.

On Friday night, McLaughlin's birthday, the Huskies face Arizona State (13-13, 5-10 Pac-10).

'It's always interesting playing ASU because they use a lot of the same systems as we do,' said redshirt freshman Tamari Miyashiro. 'But they haven't quite mastered them all, so they kind of look like a miniature version of us.'

Seniors Janine Sandell, and Thompson, an All-American, will be honored on senior night.

'I'll miss it,' Thompson said. 'This has been just such a surreal four years. I'm just blessed and lucky for what I've had, and I'm excited for what's next. I've been here a long time and it will be someone else's turn to have a great time.'

With any luck, the team will get to play in Hec Ed one last time, as the venue will host the NCAA Regional finals Dec. 9 and 10.

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