No. 4 Huskies Take Final Road Trip To No. 17 USC, No. 6 UCLA

Nov. 11, 2009

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#4 Washington at #17 USC • 7:00 p.m.

#4 Washington at #6 UCLA • 7:00 p.m. • FSN

The Pac-10 race continues to get more dramatic with each passing week. Fresh off one battle for first-place last Friday vs. Stanford, the fourth-ranked Washington volleyball team faces another this weekend in Los Angeles. The Huskies (20-3, 10-3 Pac-10) own a half-game lead over sixth-ranked UCLA, and will visit the Bruins this Saturday. But first, in a match that bears just as much importance, UW will be at the Galen Center to challenge 17th-ranked USC (15-9, 4-8 Pac-10) on Friday, Nov. 13, for a 7 p.m. match. The next night the Dawgs will head to Pauley Pavilion to take on UCLA (19-6, 9-3 Pac-10), also at 7 p.m. in a match that will be televised by FSN on a tape delay.

The Bruins have come on strong of late to challenge for the conference title. UCLA has not lost since the Huskies handed them a 3-1 defeat in Seattle on Oct. 16, winning six in a row. USC, meanwhile, held a 2-1 lead on UW in the first meeting before the Huskies fought back for the 3-2 win, so the Trojans will be a major test. The incredible depth of the Pac-10 has proven itself in that this will be the first year in conference history that the eventual champion will have at least three Pac-10 losses. This will be the final road trip for the Dawgs until NCAAs, as their final three matches are at home.

Washington played some of its best volleyball of the year last Friday, dominating a showdown with fifth-ranked Stanford. The Huskies swept the Cardinal, 25-21, 25-23, 25-19, snapping a four-match losing streak to Stanford and becoming the first Pac-10 team to sweep the Cardinal since 2006. Jill Collymore had a great all-around game with 12 kills, eight digs, and four aces, while hitting .385. Kindra Carlson also had 12 kills while Jenna Hagglund had 37 assists and 13 digs. Washington outhit Stanford .262-.226 in front of 4,557 fans. Unfortunately, the Dawgs were unable to carry the momentum from their victory into the following night, when they let a 2-1 lead slip away to 13th-ranked Cal, falling 25-23, 18-25, 25-14, 23-25, 13-15. Washington got off to slow starts in each set and though the team rallied in each set it was too much to overcome and UW suffered its first home loss of the year. Carlson was the biggest bright spot, amassing a career-high 26 kills that is the most by a Husky this season, while adding 12 digs. Bianca Rowland was very effective with nine kills and just one error on 16 swings (.500). Freshman setter Jenni Nogueras also helped lead UW's third-set win, and she totaled a season-high 19 assists.

If you miss any of Washington's home matches this year, or just want to relive the action or a particular play, remember that every match is available to watch on Comcast OnDemand. The video is taken from the live stream with all the accoutrements of your typical television broadcast. To find the Huskies, start under 'Get Local' or 'Sports & Fitness' then 'Local Sports' followed by 'UW' and then 'Volleyball.'

Only five matches now remain in the regular season and the Pac-10 slate, and the race for the conference crown is not becoming any easier or clearer. At 10-3, the Huskies currently have a half-game advantage over UCLA at 9-3 heading into this weekend's showdown. The Bruins have won six-straight since a 3-3 conference start. Stanford is a game back of Washington in third-place at 8-4 and the teams split the season series. California is alone in fourth with an 8-5 mark and Oregon is fifth at 6-6. Every Pac-10 team has at least three conference losses for the first time in history. The Huskies are seeking their first Pac-10 title since 2005. Stanford has won the past three titles with UW as runner-up each year. Washington has not lost more than three Pac-10 matches since 2003.

USC has lost its past three matches, but barely missed an upset of then-No. 7 UCLA at home last weekend, as the Bruins escaped the Galen Center with a 15-12 fifth-set win. The Trojans have struggled on the road in Pac-10 play, going 1-6, but are 3-2 at home with wins over Cal (3-2), Oregon (3-0) and Oregon State (3-0). Sophomore Alex Jupiter continues to be one of the finest offensive weapons in the conference, ranking third in Pac-10 matches in both kills (4.89) and points (5.54) per set. Jupiter had 22 kills in USC's last match vs. UCLA, and had 25 vs. UW in Seattle with a .279 hitting percentage. She also ranks third in the league with 29 aces. Sophomore setter Kendall Bateman is second in the Pac-10 and in the entire nation with 12.15 assists per set. Senior Jessica Gysin had 14 kills in the first meeting with the Huskies, and averages 3.33 per set, while senior libero Alli Hillgren had 29 digs in Seattle. The Trojans rely on their hitters for most of the their points; they lead the Pac-10 in kills per set with 14.75, but have ranked near the bottom in blocks and aces during Pac-10 play.

Washington trails the all-time series with USC, 17-33 but has won five of the past six and seven of the past nine meetings going back to 2005. However, Washington was pushed to five sets earlier this season in Seattle before prevailing, and the Huskies and Trojans went five sets again last year in Los Angeles before UW pulled it out. USC's last win in the series was another five-setter in L.A. in 2007.

UCLA has won six-straight matches since Washington knocked off the Bruins, 3-1, in Seattle on Oct. 16. The Bruins had home wins over the Oregon schools, then swept the Bay Area schools on the road, which included a 3-2 win at Stanford that was UCLA's first win over the Cardinal since 2000, a span of 18 matches. The Bruins then pulled out another five-set road win last weekend against the rival Trojans. Middle blocker Amanda Gil was dominant in that match, posting 16 kills with a .560 attack percentage and seven blocks. Junior outside hitter Dicey McGraw also had 15 kills. The Bruins have a balanced offense similar to UW's with no players in the Top-10 in the conference in kills or points per set. McGraw and senior Kaitlin Sather average 3.14 and 2.69 kills, respectively. UCLA ranks just eighth in attack percentage at .226, but is second only to Washington in opponent hitting percentage, limiting opponents to .172, and .187 in Pac-10 play. Gil is second nationally in blocks with 1.60 per set, and UCLA also leads in digs with 16.19 per set. The Bruins have lost just once at home, 3-1 to Stanford.

The Huskies have taken the last six meetings against the Bruins, including a 3-1 victory earlier this year in Seattle. Washington also pulled out a five-set win in L.A. last year. UCLA's last win in the series was a five-setter in Los Angeles in 2006. UCLA still leads the all-time series, 38-15.

The Huskies stayed put in the No. 4 spot in this week's AVCA poll. UW was third for much of the year until suffering its first loss at Stanford. Penn State remains No. 1 and Texas No. 2, with Hawai'i third and Illinois fifth. UCLA is now the second-highest-ranked Pac-10 team at No. 6. Washington is also fourth in the Volleyball Magazine poll this week. The Huskies are now 9-2 against ranked opponents. Nine Pac-10 teams are currently in the Top-25 or receiving votes. After UW and UCLA, Stanford comes in at No. 7, followed by No. 12 California, No. 16 Oregon, No. 17 USC, No. 18 Arizona, and No. 25 Washington State. Oregon State is receiving votes. 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.

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