Huskies Building A Block

Nov. 19, 2009

By Michael Jeremiah

The University of Washington volleyball team has been resilient in fighting back from defeat to maintain their position among the top teams in the Pac-10. Last weekend, after a five-set heartbreaker to USC on Friday could have taken the wind out of the Husky sails; the team produced a dominating defensive performance in a three-set sweep of the sixth-ranked UCLA Bruins.

That performance can be attributed in large part to the devastating block Washington put together on the Bruin offense. Struggling to break through the wall, UCLA was held without a player in double digit in kills, and hit a season-low .101 on the night. The Huskies won the important conference match 25-19, 25-18, 25-21 and retook first place in the Pac-10.

The win was an all-around better performance for the Huskies, but Coach Jim McLaughlin saw a few areas that were key to the Husky victory.

'[Our block] was one of the aspects that we really upgraded on. The other was our serve and pass. We really won that battle. Every time we've won that battle, we've won the match,' said McLaughlin.

'The blocking was very good. There's two parts to it. There's the plan, the plan on where we are going to be and how we are going to be there and the percentages that we are going to block. And then there's the execution of the plan. I thought we were really good in both aspects. Against SC, I didn't think we were real good in either one of them. We just had to upgrade and the girls did.'

One of the main players in the Husky front-line defense is 6-foot-5 sophomore Lauren Barfield. The middle blocker is in her first year of significant playing time and has battled back from a broken finger early on to become an impact player for Washington. The Husky performance coincided with a big weekend for Barfield, who posted a career-high 11 blocks against the Trojans then followed it up with seven vs. the Bruins.

Prior to the L.A. trip, UW had been outblocked in six of its previous eight Pac-10 matches, but the Huskies registered a season-high 17.5 blocks compared to 13.0 for USC, and then posted 10.5 blocks to 6.0 for UCLA, which leads the Pac-10 in blocks this season.

In volleyball, a block is more than just a statistic, and can be just as important to the momentum of a game as a monster kill or service ace.

'It always feels good to block a big-time hitter,' said Barfield. 'When you shut down one of their hitters, even though its one point, it's the most satisfying thing in the world, especially for a middle because you have to cover so much ground. It can change the momentum of the game.'

Washington will try to build on its momentum through the final three regular season matches as they try to secure a Pac-10 Championship. A powerful block will help carry UW a long ways in the postseason as well. McLaughlin's Huskies were especially on point in their preparation and execution at UCLA.

'It was the first time for an extended period of time. We were good from start to finish. You're always hoping in November it clicks and it finally did. Now, we've got to maintain that through the playoffs. We still have a few more practices and we can make real progress in those five days,' said McLaughlin.

The memory of the team's efforts at UCLA will stick with the team for a while, hopefully well into December. Nothing beats the feeling of seeing the fruits of their practice labor on the court against one of the top teams in the nation.

'That was the highlight of the season so far. Everything we've worked on coming together and doing it in the game,' said Barfield.

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