Huskies Return Home To Face Arizona Schools

Sept. 29, 2009

#3/3 Washington vs. Arizona State • 7:00 p.m.

#3/3 Washington vs. #18/18 Arizona • 7:00 p.m.

Third-ranked Washington volleyball ushers in the Pac-10 home slate this weekend with matches against Arizona State and 18th-ranked Arizona at Bank of America Arena. The undefeated Huskies (12-0) look to expand upon their early Pac-10 lead as UW was the only conference team to win twice during last weekend's first round of conference matches.

The Husky players may need to be reminded which bench to head to when Friday's match against ASU tips off at 7 p.m., as Washington has not played at home since the end of August, going 9-0 on a month-long road. The Huskies will now get to take their home court in nine of the remaining 16 matches of the season.

Saturday's 7 p.m. encounter with the Wildcats will be UW's fourth ranked opponent of the year. They are 3-0 thus far, sweeping No. 4 Florida, No. 9 Minnesota, and No. 7 Oregon this past Friday in the Pac-10 opener.

The Huskies are now one of three remaining undefeated teams in the NCAA, along with top-ranked Penn State and No. 2 Texas.

Washington's Pac-10 schedule opened with what could end up being a very pivotal challenge when all is said and done, as the Huskies went into McArthur Court to face the then-undefeated and seventh-ranked Oregon Ducks. Washington was able to withstand the 3,500 fans, Oregon's third-largest ever, and come away with a 25-18, 26-24, 25-19 win. The Huskies overcame early deficits of four and five points in the first two sets, and saved their first set point in set two. The Ducks were held to a season-low .143 attack percentage while the Dawgs hit .253 and fired a season-high 11 aces. Kindra Carlson's 13 kills led the offense and Tamari Miyashiro had 18 digs and three aces.

Two days later in Corvallis, Washington avoided any sort of letdown after the emotional opener by sweeping Oregon State, 25-21, 25-15, 25-21. In the first set, Miyashiro broke Candace Lee's school record for digs, taking hold of the record at 2,039 and counting. UW was at its best in the second set, hitting .452 and holding the Beavers to .054. Airial Salvo had her second double-double of the year with 11 kills and 15 digs. Jill Collymore's 15 kills led the team and Carlson added another 13. Jenna Hagglund posted a season-high 40 assists.

On the heels of UW's sweep over the Oregon schools, senior libero Tamari Miyashiro picked up the first Pac-10 Player of the Week award of her storied career. Miyashiro's weekend was highlighted by breaking the UW career digs record, surpassing Candace Lee (2002-05) and moving into fifth in conference history with 2,048. In Friday's match against No. 7 Oregon, Miyashiro posted 18 digs as the Huskies held the previously undefeated Ducks to a season-low .143 hitting percentage. In addition, she tallied a season-high three service aces in the match. Against Oregon State on Sunday, the Huskies continued to play solid defense as Miyashiro registered 15 digs and Washington held the Beavers to their second-lowest hitting percentage of the year at .149. The Kaneohe, Hawai'i native became the first Husky defensive specialist to earn Player of the Week honors.

Washington's perfect start through the first five weeks is nothing new under head coach Jim McLaughlin. The Huskies are currently tied with the 2005 squad which opened the year with 12-straight sweeps before losing a set in a win at Cal. The 36-set win streak matches the program record. As for overall matches to start the year, in 2008 the Huskies won their first seven matches before dropping a 3-2 decision at Hawai'i. The year before that Washington rolled to a 16-0 record before finally giving up a five-set loss at Cal. In the national title season in 2005, the Dawgs were 23-0 before their one and only loss at UCLA, and in 2004 Washington got off to a 22-0 start on the way to its first Final Four appearance. The Huskies also had an 11-match win streak to start the 2003 season.

With a 10-0 run through its non-conference schedule, the Huskies ran their record against non-conference foes to 86-5 since the beginning of the 2003 season. That adds up to a .945 winning percentage out of the Pac-10. All five losses have been five-set nailbiters as well. Though its not as if UW has been shabby in league play either. Starting in 2004 when the Huskies won their first Pac-10 title, they have gone a combined 80-12 (.869) in conference matches and finished no worse than a tie for second.

Arizona State showed that it can be a major threat this season with an impressive 3-0 shutout of 14th-ranked UCLA in Tempe last weekend. Junior Sarah Reaves had a double-double against the Bruins with 15 kills and 10 digs, and the Devils dominated the net with 12 blocks compared to just 2 for UCLA. The next night, Arizona State took 13th-ranked USC to four sets but fell short, dropping to 11-3 overall and 1-1 in conference play. Aside from the Huskies, the Sun Devils have had the stingiest defense in the Pac-10 so far, limiting opponents to a .147 attack percentage, and ASU is also second in blocks per set at 3.01, something that helped them to the UCLA win. Reaves is second in the Pac-10 with 4.41 kills/set, and senior Paige Mittelstaedt has hit at a .417 clip, third-best in the Pac-10. Sophomore Sonja Markanovic is fifth in blocks with 1.29 per set. Jason Watson is in his second season at ASU.

The Huskies have won the past 13 meetings with the Sun Devils, the last ASU win coming back in 2002 in five sets in Seattle. Last year Washington won both meetings, sweeping at home but needing five sets to prevail in Tempe. The Huskies lead the all-time series, 32-18. The first meeting came in 1986 and was won by ASU.

Much like their desert counterparts, the Wildcats split their two home matches against the L.A. schools last weekend, though with the wins reversed. Arizona first took down No. 13 USC on Friday night, 3-1, in a tight match where no set was won by more than four points. Junior Tiffany Owens' 16 kills and 13 digs were a boon to the Cats, while sophomore MB Courtney Karst had 10 kills without an error on 24 attempts to hit .417. Senior Jacy Norton also hit .500 with 11 kills. That win pushed UA to a program-best 12-0, but they suffered their first loss the next night against No. 14 UCLA. The Wildcats took set one, 25-22, but after UCLA won a tight set two at 27-25, they ran away with the final two sets. Arizona hit just .101 for the night, though Norton was effective again with seven kills and a .353 percentage. Arizona has hit .246 for the year and held opponents to a .190 clip. Owens is sixth in the Pac-10 with 3.82 kills per set, and junior Paige Weber is fifth in assists at 10.40.

Washington holds a slim 25-24 edge in the all-time series but has been the dominant team of late, beating Arizona the last 10 times they've faced off. Both matches last season were hard-fought affairs, as UW won in five sets in Tucson last year and then scored a four-set victory at home.

Once again the top-three teams in the national rankings held serve, and there was no change at the top for the fifth-straight poll. Washington stayed put at No. 3 following top-ranked Penn State and No. 2 Texas. The Nittany Lions have 50 first-place votes while the Longhorns have eight in their corner and the Huskies are pulling down the remaining pair. Washingon remained third in the Volleyball Magazine poll as well. This five-week stretch is the first time in the top-three for the Huskies since December of 2006 prior to UW's third Final Four in as many years. The Huskies are now 3-0 against ranked opponents. Every Pac-10 team is now in the Top-25 or receiving votes. Oregon didn't drop from No. 7 despite its loss to UW, and is followed by No. 9 Cal, No. 11 Stanford, No. 13 USC, No. 16 UCLA, and No. 18 Arizona. One impressive rankings-related note is that Washington, Penn State, and Nebraska are the only three teams to have been ranked in the Top-10 by the AVCA every week for the past five years. All three teams were last out of the Top-10 in December of 2003.

Washington has put up an impressive array of numbers and figures in rolling out to a 12-0 start. While UW's balanced attack often prevents individuals from racking up loads stats, the Huskies have shined where it matters most--hitting percentages. The Huskies currently rank second in the nation and lead the Pac-10 with a .324 team hitting percentage; only Penn State is hitting at a higher level, and second-ranked Texas is third at .315. Sophomore Bianca Rowland has been the most efficient Husky, hitting at a .516 clip that is second-highest in the nation and leads the Pac-10. Even more impressive than UW's offense however, has been their defensive acumen. The Dawgs have limited their opponents to a .094 hitting percentage, and much credit there can go to two-time National Defensive Player of the Year Tamari Miyashiro who is leading the Pac-10 once again with 5.08 digs per set. Arizona State is second behind the UW in opponent hitting percentage, but are well back of UW at a .147 mark. With 1.97 aces per set, the Huskies rank 11th in the nation and second in the Pac-10. Senior Jill Collymore is averaging 0.62 aces per set which is second in the Pac-10 and seventh in the NCAA, while Miyashiro is third in the Pac with 0.42. Jill Collymore is UW's top point scorer with 4.29 per set, seventh in the Pac-10.

The Huskies make the crucial Bay Area road trip next week to face perennial powers California and Stanford. Friday, Oct. 9, UW will go against No. 9 Cal at 7 p.m. The next day, Oct. 10, it will be Washington against defending Pac-10 Champs Stanford at 7 p.m. in a match that will be aired on FSN on a delayed basis.

Senior libero Tamari Miyashiro took down the Washington record for digs this past weekend at Oregon State, surpassing All-American Candace Lee (2,038; 2002-05) in the first set. The Kanaohe, Hawai'i native is now up to 2,048 career digs and while she owns the school record she can still move up a few rungs on the Pac-10 list. Miyashiro is now fifth in conference history, and just 16 digs out of fourth and 23 from third-place. Miyashiro succeeded Lee at the libero position, giving Husky fans eight-straight seasons of historically outstanding defensive play. A two-time National Defensive Player of the Year, Miyashiro broke the digs record despite the switch to 25-point sets last season. Also climbing the career Top-10 list is junior setter Jenna Hagglund, who at the Tampa Twice Tournament became the fourth setter in school history to pass 3,000 career assists, coming in now at 3,158 over her two-plus seasons. Hagglund needs 32 more assists to tie Gretchen Maurer (1999-02) for third on the all-time list. Also worth keeping an eye on is the impressive hitting of sophomore middle blocker Bianca Rowland. Currently hitting .516, Rowland is on pace to surpass the season attack percentage mark set last year by Jessica Swarbrick at .427.

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