Huskies Hit The Ground Running In Spring Practice

April 12, 2010

Given the intensity level that the Husky volleyball team has brought to its first couple spring practices, an observer might be inclined to double-check their calendars. Yes, it is still April, and Washington is not on the eve of another NCAA tournament run. But these Huskies know that a high level of competition now can help shape who they become in the fall, and they don't plan on wasting a second.

Spring practice officially began this past Friday afternoon around 3 p.m. on the Marv Harshman court adjacent to Bank of America Arena. The Huskies will continue practicing a few times a week until May 21, with four exhibitions planned against Santa Clara, two at home and two at Santa Clara.

The first practice ended with a fast-paced competition with players shuffling between teams at different points; first the liberos, then the middle blockers, then the outside hitters. After a strenuous two hours, the contest ended with players good-naturedly arguing with the scorekeeper over whether or not their team was credited with a final dig.

Head coach Jim McLaughlin was pleased with the effort level of the first practices.

'The energy level is high start to finish, so they're getting after it. I like it and I think they're thinking good thoughts, competing hard, and they're learning a lot. So if we can just stay focused on the things we have to do, we're going to make some progress,' said McLaughlin, though he added quickly, 'We've got a lot of progress that we need to make.'

The Huskies had another successful season in 2009, going 24-6 and ranking as high as third before entering their eighth-straight NCAA tourney as the sixth-seed. However the Huskies were upset in the second round at Colorado State. While only one team can end the season the way it hopes, Washington certainly wasn't satisfied and as usual Coach McLaughlin agenda items big and small to put the Huskies on the right path.

'We've got a list of big rocks and little rocks that we're going to address. But specifically we need to become a better team hitting quicks, and we need to become a better team playing faster, and we need to become a better blocking team. Then always serving and passing,' said McLaughlin. 'So we've got a full plate, but day two was better than day one, so I like it.'

Outside hitter Kindra Carlson, coming off her first All-America season last year, was thrilled to be back in the gym. Carlson will be a senior in the fall, and is ready for the challenges ahead.

'It feels good (to be back practicing). This is the last hurrah. There's definitely a sense of urgency I think; there always is, but with this team it's going to be a little different because we have to create who we want to be, who we want to become,' Carlson said. 'So I think that's going to be our biggest challenge. I think all of us are ready and we're excited for the first day of practice.'

The Huskies probably won't have a huge personality makeover with twelve returners in all, but they do have to start adjusting to the absence of departed seniors Tamari Miyashiro, Jill Collymore, and Airial Salvo. Washington brings back four defensive specialists next year in seniors Kandiss Anderson and Bizzy Williams, sophomore Kelly Holford, and redshirt freshman Jenna Orlandini, and who among them takes over the starting libero role from Miyashiro will be a big storyline.

'We're looking at it every day,' McLaughlin says of every position battle. 'We're going to compete every day. We believe that competition develops people, and we're going to see who's going to fight and improve their game. And that's the deal.'

McLaughlin has always based playing time on practice performance on a weekly basis. It can be a challenge for the players, but one they readily accept.

'For sure, there's always competition,' Carlson said. 'Great teams have competition and I think we're going to be a great team. We're not yet, but we will become a great team so the competitive edge is there.'

And yes, it is still only April.

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