Bears, Cardinal In Town To Wrap Pac-12 First Half
THIS WEEK IN HUSKY VOLLEYBALL
SEATTLE -- The first half of Pac-12 play wraps up this week and the Huskies will try to continue the momentum they've been building through to the second half. On a six-match win streak, the 10th-ranked Dawgs will host California and No. 15 Stanford this Friday and Sunday, respectively, at Alaska Airlines Arena. Both matches will be televised live on Pac-12 Networks.
The Pac-12 couldn't be any tighter at the top after one month of play. Washington is one of four teams tied for first at 6-2 along with the visiting Cardinal, UCLA and Washington State. Three more teams -- Oregon, USC, and Utah -- are just a game back at 5-3. Sunday's match with Stanford could be a battle between two first-place teams, but only if the Huskies handle Cal on Friday and the Cardinal win another first-place showdown at Washington State on Friday.
The Huskies (13-3, 6-2) both continued a run and ended another last week on the road in Oregon. The win streak reached six, but UW also snapped a streak of losing the first set in six matches in a row with a sweep at Oregon State, in which the Huskies had their highest attack percentage (.512) in a Pac-12 match since 2005. It was UW's first sweep since Sept. 16 and just its third all season.
California is 7-12 on the season and 0-8 in league play, but has been adding pieces back to its lineup after injuries. Husky junior Marin Grote's sister Lydia Grote played her first matches of the season last week, and had 21 kills in just three sets in Cal's loss to Utah. Bella Bergmark is one of the most efficient attackers in the Pac-12, ranking fourth with a .392 attack percentage with 2.09 kills per set. Katie Smoot leads Cal with 3.18 kills per set, but did not see action last weekend. The Bears are seventh in league play with 1.36 aces per set, fourth in digs with 14.21 per set, and 10th in blocks at 1.73 per set.
Stanford is 11-5 overall and 6-2 in conference, having earned several big wins in nonconference over Florida, Penn State, and Nebraska, with losses to Texas, Minnesota, and Kentucky. Last week Stanford swept Utah and Colorado at home, and Caitie Baird won Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Week by hitting over .400 in both matches and leading in kills. The Cardinal rank first with a .284 attack percentage on the season, and a .293 mark in Pac-12 play. Stanford also has a big lead in blocks per set, averaging 3.21 in conference. In eight Pac-12 matches, Baird and Kendall Kipp are both averaging 3.81 kills per set, with Baird hitting .271 and Kipp .357. Kami Miner leads the Pac-12 with 11.35 assists per set, Elena Oglivie ranks third with 4.48 digs per set, and McKenna Vicini is the leader in blocks with 1.77/set. A win for UW on Sunday would be a fourth-straight over Stanford and would be the longest win streak for the Huskies in the series. Stanford or Washington have won or shared the past 10 conference titles, and 17 of the past 18 dating back to 2004. USC won outright in 2011, Washington shared with USC in 2015, and Stanford shared with Cal in 2010.