No. 4 Volleyball Chases Pac-10 Title In Final Two Matches

Nov. 24, 2009

#4 Washington vs. Oregon State • 7:00 p.m.

#4 Washington vs. #18 Oregon • 7:00 p.m.

Washington volleyball closes out the regular season with a Pac-10 title within reach if the fourth-ranked Huskies can defeat Oregon State and Oregon this week. UW hosts the Beavers (12-16, 3-13 Pac-10) this Wednesday, Nov. 25, at 7 p.m., then takes on the 18th-ranked Ducks (17-9, 7-9) on Friday, Nov. 27, also at 7 p.m.

The Huskies (22-4, 12-4) will honor their three seniors on Friday's Senior Night. Jill Collymore, Tamari Miyashiro, and Airial Salvo will each be playing their final regular season matches in front of the home Bank of America Arena crowd.

The Pac-10 race has come down to this final weekend. Washington is even in the loss column with Stanford, the Cardinal owning one more win and ending its season against California this week. UCLA is third with an 11-5 mark. If there is a tie, no matter which teams are involved, co-Champions will be named, though UW owns a tiebreaker over Stanford and UCLA for the automatic NCAA bid. Washington's last Pac-10 title came in 2005.

Washington got some sweet revenge against their cross-state rivals last Saturday, as the Dawgs swept the Cougars, 3-0, to make up for an upset loss earlier in the year in Pullman. Washington had its best offensive night since Oct. 9 at California, hitting .333 for the night and firing eight aces in the three sets. The Cougars hung close in set one, and tied the score on 10 occasions, but UW pulled out the opener, 25-23, and then cruised in the next two to win 25-18 and 25-19. Three Huskies tallied double-figure kills, led by the 16 of Kindra Carlson. Becky Perry had 12 kills and hit .346, while Bianca Rowland was errorless on 17 swings and had 11 kills for a .647 hitting percentage. Jenna Hagglund had a double-double with 44 assists and 10 digs, and Tamari Miyashiro had 16 digs and a season-high four aces.

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 two matches now remain in the regular season and the Pac-10 slate, and the race for the most prestigious conference title in America has come down to the final weekend. At 12-4, the Huskies are currently tied with Stanford in the loss column, and own a one-game lead on UCLA, therefore the Huskies control their own destiny though the Cardinal do as well. Stanford has just one match remaining, playing at home against 11th-ranked Cal, a team that beat Stanford, 3-2, earlier this year. UCLA, the only other team still in contention will end at home against the Arizonas. Every Pac-10 team has at least four conference losses for the first time in history, and in fact no conference champ had ever had more than two losses prior to this season. 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. This is the first year UW has lost more than three Pac-10 matches since 2003, yet they would still win the league with wins in their last two matches.

The goal for every player in the nation is the NCAA Championships, and while Washington is a virtual lock of being selected to its eighth-consecutive tournament, the Huskies would very much like to earn the Pac-10s automatic bid, which they would do with two more wins this weekend. UW owns the tiebreaker with Stanford. The NCAA Selection Show is this coming Sunday, Nov. 29, at 12 noon Pacific time on ESPNews. Regional sites for this year's NCAA tourney include Gainesville, Florida, Minneapolis, Minnesota, Omaha, Nebraska, and Stanford, California. First round action will begin Dec. 3.

The Beavers are led by senior Rachel Rourke, who ranks second in the Pac-10 and fifth in the entire country with 5.38 points per set. Last weekend the Beavers were swept at home by USC and UCLA. Oregon State started the season off 2-3 in Pac-10 play, but has since lost 10 of its past 11, though OSU did upset 18th-ranked Arizona at home, 3-1, and proved to be dangerous during the non-conference schedule when they swept No. 6 Michigan on the road. The Beavers have struggled on offense in conference matches, hitting .168, which ranks at the bottom. They do however remain one of the top blocking teams in the league, averaging 2.87 blocks per set for the year. Senior Lexie Rathgeber leads in that department with 1.04 blocks per set. Senior Camilla Ah-Hoy directs the offense with 10.09 assists per set, ranking eighth in the Pac-10. The Huskies earned a 3-0 sweep in Corvallis in the opening weekend of Pac-10 play, though two of the three sets were tight 25-21 results.

Washington won the first meeting with OSU this year to extend its series win streak to 15 matches dating back to 2002. Oregon State's last win was in 2001 during UW coach Jim McLaughlin's first season. The Huskies lead the all-time series, 46-21.

Oregon has been a dangerous draw all year long, and proved it again by upsetting 7th-ranked UCLA, 3-2, in its most recent match. Oregon dropped the first two sets, before storming back to take a dramatic 23-25, 18-25, 25-22, 27-25, 17-15 victory that knocked the Bruins out of a tie atop the Pac-10 and helped out the Huskies. But Oregon won't be wanting to help UW any more this weekend, as the Huskies handed the Ducks their first loss back on Sept. 25 in Eugene by a 3-0 count. Oregon has strong senior leaders, with Sonja Newcombe ranking fifth in the Pac-10 in points per set with 4.76. Senior setter Nevena Djordjevic is third in the NCAA with 12.15 assists/set, and senior middle Neticia Enesi is third in the Pac with a .383 hitting percentage, while also ranking fifth in blocks at 1.09. Junior Heather Meyers also can't be overlooked, as her 4.14 points/set are eighth in the league. Meyers is also one of the toughest servers, ranking just behind UW's Jill Collymore in aces with 0.42 per set. As a team, the Ducks' .267 hitting percentage is third-best, but they have allowed a league-high .226 percentage to their opponents.

Washington has held a significant edge in the series historically and recently as well. The Huskies have won 17 straight vs. the Ducks and hold a 55-16 edge. Earlier this year, UW tagged Oregon with its first defeat, 25-18, 26-24, 25-19, in Eugene. Last season the Dawgs earned a 3-2 win in Seattle. UO's last win in the series came back in 2000 at Mac Court.

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, UW fourth, Illinois fifth, and Stanford sixth, the same lineup as last week. UCLA dropped a couple rungs down to ninth after losing at Oregon. Washington is also fourth in the Volleyball Magazine poll this week. The Huskies are now 10-3 against ranked opponents and an impressive 5-1 against Top-10 teams. An incredible seven Pac-10 teams are still ranked in the Top-20. Washington (4), Stanford (6), and UCLA (9) reside in the Top-10, followed by No. 11 California, No. 16 USC, No. 18 Oregon, and No. 19 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.

It's the NCAA Championships at long last. Tune in to ESPNews this coming Sunday at 12 p.m. Pacific time to watch the selection show and see if the Huskies will be hosting first and second round action or be headed on the road for their tourney run.

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