Washington Opens NCAA Tourney Thursday Vs. Northern Colorado

Dec. 1, 2009

Interactive Bracket

Hosted by Colorado State • Fort Collins, Colo. • Moby Arena

#6 Washington vs. Northern Colorado • 4:00 p.m. Pacific
Colorado State vs. Middle Tennessee State • 6:30 p.m. Pacific

Winner Game 1 vs. Winner Game 2 • 6 p.m. Pacific

Washington volleyball once again finds itself in contention for a national title as the 2009 NCAA Division-I National Championship has arrived. The Huskies (23-5) are seeded sixth out of the 64 teams that will continue on with their successful seasons starting this week. The team will head to Fort Collins, Colorado for the first two rounds with Colorado State serving as host. Washington begings its tourney run this Thursday, Dec. 3, at 4 p.m. Pacific time at CSU's Moby Arena, facing Big Sky Conference Champion Northern Colorado (21-11).

If the Huskies top the Bears, they will take on the winner of Colorado State and Middle Tennessee on Friday, Dec. 4, in a match slated for 6 p.m. Pacific. The winner of this four-team section will move on to Minneapolis for the Regional rounds next week. The ultimate goal remains the Final Four in Tampa, Florida on Dec. 17 and 19.

The Huskies have plenty of NCAA Championship experience to draw on, as they returned all but one starter from last year's squad which reached the Regional Final, falling in five sets to Nebraska. This is the eighth NCAA tournament in a row for the Huskies under head coach Jim McLaughlin, and Washington has won all seven of its previous first round matches. In five of the last six years, the UW has advanced at least to the Regional Final, with trips to the Final Four in 2004, 2005, and 2006, and a National Championship in 2005.

Starting out NCAAs in chilly Colorado is nothing new to McLaughlin and the Huskies. Over the past seven years, if UW has not hosted the first two rounds, it has headed to Colorado, most recently in 2005 and 2006, UW's last two Final Four appearances. In 2005, Washington was in Fort Collins and defeated Colorado State in the second round. Denver was the site in 2006, when the Huskies overcame Colorado State and Colorado on consecutive nights to advance.

Washington has been ranked between No. 3 and No. 6 the entire season, and finished as the Pac-10 Conference runner-up with a 13-5 record, coming literally one point short of sharing the title with Stanford. The UW is one of eight Pac-10 teams in the field.

The Huskies came up literally one point short of the Pac-10 Championship, as Oregon upset the Huskies, 3-2, in the regular season finale last Friday. Washington held a 2-0 lead, but the Ducks battled back for a 15-25, 21-25, 25-23, 31-29, 15-13 win. In the fourth set, UW held match point on three occasions, but Oregon survived. The fourth set alone had 24 ties. Washington fell despite outhitting Oregon, .301-.267, and dominating at net with 15.5 blocks to 6.0 for UO. Several Huskies had season-best efforts, starting with senior Tamari Miyashiro's 31 digs. Kindra Carlson became the first Husky to post a 20-20 this year with 24 kills and a career-high 20 digs. Jenna Hagglund's 67 assists were a season-high, as were Becky Perry's 18 kills. Bianca Rowland had a career-best 17 kills while hitting .640. Two nights earlier, the Dawgs completed a season sweep of Oregon State, taking care of the Beavers 25-21, 25-23, 25-16. Jill Collymore's powerful serves turned the tide of the second and third sets, as she racked up a season-high six aces. Carlson reached double figures again with 14 kills, and Rowland was error-free with eight kills on 12 attacks.

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 GoHuskies.com 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.'

The Pac-10 head coaches voted five Dawgs to the All-Pac-10 team, led by senior Tamari Miyashiro, who was chosen for the third straight season. Miyashiro, junior Jenna Hagglund and junior Kindra Carlson all made the prestigious 14-member team while sophomore Bianca Rowland and senior Airial Salvo earned honorable mention. Miyashiro was the only libero voted to the team and Hagglund was the only setter. Hagglund had been honorable mention the past two years, as were Carlson and Salvo last season.

The Bears earned their first NCAA Championship bid in school history with a 3-1 win over Portland State in the Big Sky Conference championship game. NCU went 21-11 in the regular season and 12-4 in conference play. They took Colorado State, this weekend's host, to five sets in a close loss where every set was decided by four points or less. As a team they hit .248 for the year wihle their opponents hit .209. Senior Kenzie Shreeve leads the Bears with 3.45 kills per set. Junior outside hitter Ashley Lichtenberg also averages 2.24 kills/set while hitting .352. Freshman Marissa Hughes has directed the offense, averaging 11.06 assists. Senior middle blocker Allison Raguse was named to the All-Big Sky First Team. Lyndsey Benson has coached the Bears since 2005 and presided over their move to Division-I.

This will be the first meeting between Washington and Northern Colorado.

The Rams captured the Mountain West Conference championship this year behind MWC Player of the Year Danielle Minch, a junior outside hitter, and Coach of the Year Tom Hilbert. It is the seventh Coach of the Year honor for Hilbert, who passed the 500 career win total this year. CSU rolled through conference matches at 15-1, though they did drop their final regular season match, 3-2, to New Mexico State. CSU played one Pac-10 team, Oregon State, and was swept at home, but they also had a home win over Ohio State, which made the NCAA field. Also earning MWC honors was senior middle blocker Tessa Nelson, redshirt freshman outside hitter Megan Plourde, and sophomore setter Evan Sanders. Senior libero Katelin Batten was named the conference's Libero of the Year. The Rams held opponents to a .162 hitting percentage and out-blocked teams by a 2.70 - 1.84 margin. Minch's 3.79 kills per set led the team.

The Huskies and Rams last met in 2006 in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. The Rams took the first set in Denver, but then UW rallied to take the next three on their way to reaching the Final Four. Washington also swept CSU in Fort Collins in 2005 on its way to a national championship. The overall series stands at 5-2 in UW's favor.

Washington will be familiar with Middle Tennessee State should the teams meet on Friday, as they already played once this year in San Antonio. The Huskies won that match-up in straight sets, highlighted by a 15-point string of serves from Jill Collymore in the third set. Middle Tennessee earned a spot in the tournament for the fourth consecutive season, after winning the Sun Belt Conference title with a 3-1 win over Florida International. Senior Ashley Mead was named tournament MVP, and had 17 kills in the title match. Overall MTSU is 25-9 and went 15-2 against conferenec opponents. Senior setter Leslie Clark was named to the All-SBC First Team for the third time, and junior outside hitter Izabela Kozon also earned First Team honors, while Mead and sophomore middle blocker Stacy Oladinni garnered Second Team acclaim. Oladinnin has hit .404 this year with 2.70 kills/set, while Mead and Kozon average 3.46 and 3.42 kills/set respectively. Matt Peck has led the Blue Raiders for the last six seasons.

Washington has won the two prior meetings with Middle Tennessee, sweeping the Blue Raiders in 2003 and again this season at the UTSA Classic.

Washington slipped to sixth in the final AVCA poll and sixth in the last Volleyball Magazine poll after their five-set setback in the regular season finale. The Huskies were ranked in the top-five all year long until this last poll. Penn State remains No. 1 and Texas No. 2 as they have been throughout the year. Despite ranking only 12th in the final AVCA poll, Florida State jumped all the way to the No. 3 seed in the NCAA draw. Hawai'i, Stanford, and Iowa State ranked third through fifth, with UW at No. 6. The Huskies are now 10-4 against ranked opponents and an impressive 5-1 against Top-10 teams. Seven Pac-10 teams finished ranked in the Top-25, led by Stanford (4) and Washington (6), and followed by No. 9 UCLA, No. 10 California, No. 15 USC, No. 17 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.

Senior libero Tamari Miyashiro took down the Washington record for digs at Oregon State, surpassing All-American Candace Lee (2,038; 2002-05) in the first set. The Kaneohe, Hawai'i native is now up to 2,356 career digs and recently passed Oregon's Katie Swoboda (2005-08) for second in Pac-10 history. Only Arizona State's Sydney Donahue (2004-07) owns more digs with 2,385. Her digs total also ranks ninth in NCAA history. 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. She also continues to lead the digs per set career list with 5.37. Against Oregon, Miyashiro also equaled the school record for career sets played with 439, matching Lisa McCammond (1986-89). Also climbing the career Top-10 list is junior setter Jenna Hagglund, who has already become the second-most prolific setter in Washington history. Hagglund now has 3,895 assists, surpassing Melinda Beckenhauer (3,707; 1987-89). Sophomore middle blocker Bianca Rowland has also made a late surge to put herself in position to break the school record in hitting percentage set last year by Jessica Swarbrick at .427. Over her past three matches, Rowland has hit .648 with 36 kills and just one error, raising her season percentage to .460. Senior Jill Collymore continues to move up the Top-10 career aces list, now sitting sixth in 126 aces, one behind Ashleigh Robertson (1989-92). Senior Airial Salvo also became a member of the exclusive 1,000 kills-1,000 digs club this season, adding in her two years at Utah. Salvo now has 1,415 kills and 1,165 digs.

For the second time in her distinguished career, senior Jill Collymore was named an ESPN The Magazine Academic All-American. Not only that, but Collymore was also voted First Team Pac-10 All-Academic. Collymore was voted to the Academic All-America Second Team, after being named to the Third Team last season. The double major in honors psychology and digital arts owns a 3.77 grade point average. She was also a Pac-10 First Team All-Academic selection last year, and was named Second Team in 2006. Collymore and Stanford's Alix Klineman were the only Pac-10 players named to the team.

There are a lot of numbers that go into Washington's 23-5 record, most of them quite impressive. As the season has progressed, junior Kindra Carlson has become UW's go-to option outside, and she now ranks seventh in the Pac-10 with 4.07 kills per set. Washington's hitting percentages continue to rank among the nation's best. The Huskies currently rank fifth in the nation and lead the Pac-10 with a .288 team hitting percentage. Sophomore Bianca Rowland has been the most efficient Husky, hitting at a .460 clip that is third-highest in the nation and leads the Pac-10 by over fifty percentage points. As impressive as UW's offense has been their defensive acumen. The Dawgs have limited their opponents to a .169 hitting percentage, and much credit there can go to two-time National Defensive Player of the Year Tamari Miyashiro who is second in the Pac-10 with 5.07 digs per set. Both serving and receiving serve have been major strengths for the Dawgs. With 1.63 aces per set, the Huskies lead the Pac-10 and rank 26th nationally. That average is UW's highest since the national title season in 2005 when sets had 30 points. With only 48 reception errors thus far, Washington is on pace to set an all-time low. Senior Jill Collymore is averaging 0.54 aces per set which leads the Pac-10 and is 9th in the NCAA. Since Pac-10 play began, Jenna Hagglund has climbed to third in assists with 12.12 in conference matches and is at 11.20 overall for the season. One of the best developments for UW in Pac-10 play has been the serve of Carlson. She had just one ace in non-conference but is now second only to Collymore in aces in Pac-10 play. Collymore has 34 while Carlson has 21.

Should the Huskies advance they would travel to Minneapolis, Minn. for regional play at the University of Minnesota's Sports Pavilion. Matches will be held Friday, Dec. 11 and Saturday, Dec. 12.

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