2007 Volleyball Preview: Libero/Defensive Specialists
Aug. 22, 2007
SEATTLE - The Washington Husky volleyball team begins its quest for a fourth straight NCAA semifinal appearance and another NCAA National Championship this Friday at home against San Francisco. The Huskies, who won the 2005 National Championship, have high hopes again this season, mainly because of the number of experienced players returning from last year. Five starters and 10 letterwinners are back from last year's team that went 29-5 and finished with a final No. 4 national ranking. Head Coach Jim McLaughlin's team enters the 2007 season ranked No. 8 in the CSTV/AVCA Preseason Coaches Poll.
Among the returning starters is sophomore libero Tamari Miyashiro, who anchored the UW defense last year with 5.57 digs per game and led the team in digs 28 times in 2006. In this fifth and final edition of a five-part series preview, we take a look at Miyashiro and the rest of the Washington defensive players.
2007 WASHINGTON VOLLEYBALL LIBERO/DEFENSIVE SPECIALISTS:
Miyashiro will once again anchor the Washington defense after filling the shoes of All-American Candace Lee as a redshirt freshman last season. Miyashiro made an immediate impact and was recognized as an All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection, Pac-10 All-Freshman Team pick and was named to the NCAA Seattle Regional All-Tournament Team. Miyashiro averaged 5.57 digs per game and had 32 double-digit dig performances, including five matches with 30 or more digs.
'Tama has a very good feel for the game, maybe the best feel and all-around game of any player I've coached,' said McLaughlin. 'She continues to improve and the better she gets the more influence she has on our team. She competes at the highest level every day and makes the people around her better, but what separates her is her character and presence. She demands so much from herself and knows how to demand the same from the people around her. Some day she will play at the highest level but, of course, no one understands better than Tama that she must continue to grow as a player.'
Also returning as a defensive specialist is senior Ashley Aratani. She played in all 34 matches last season, making 14 starts, and played a key role off the bench with her float serve. Aratani finished the season with 1.73 dpg and 0.27 sapg with 30 total aces.
'Ash's defense speaks for itself,' said McLaughlin. 'She's one of the best. She is fast, has tremendous range defensively and she covers hitters well. Her serve is very tough to pass as well but the key for Ash will be her ability to pass. As she improves her passing she will contribute more significantly to our team. We will invest in her passing.'
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Sophomore Megan McAfee also returns to help on defense after appearing in 13 matches last season. She collected 20 digs on the season and a pair of aces.
'Megan has ability and she will be as good as she wants to be,' said McLaughlin. 'She made progress this spring and did a good job at Nationals. It's time for Megan to beat someone out for playing time. Every great team has two great defensive specialists. If Megan wants to, she can become one of them.'
Washington also welcomes newcomer Bizzy Williams to the Husky defense. Williams, a Sammamish, Wash., native, was the 2006 King County MVP and All-Eastside Player of the Year.
'I like a lot of things about Bizzy,' said McLaughlin. 'She works so hard, she's quick, and most importantly, she is intense. I look forward to working with her and finding out her pace of learning. We are excited about this kid.'
The Huskies open the 2007 season this Friday and Saturday when they host the Husky Classic. UW opens the four team tournament on Friday at 7 p.m. against San Francisco. Season, group and single-match tickets are currently on sale through the Husky Athletic Ticket Office, located in Graves Hall on the UW campus. Season tickets can be purchased for $88 per seat and include reserved seating in the lower bowl of Bank of America Arena, and a discount from the single-match ticket price. Single-match ticket prices range from $4-$9.