UW Volleyball | Huskies return to comfort of home court
After collecting 11 consecutive road wins — one requiring a three-game rally in a hostile setting — the eighth-ranked Washington...
Special to The Seattle Times
Arizona State @ Washington, 7 p.m.
After collecting 11 consecutive road wins — one requiring a three-game rally in a hostile setting — the eighth-ranked Washington volleyball team Thursday hosts its first home match in 40 days. It's a change in venue coach that Jim McLaughlin calls comforting.
The Huskies (14-0, 3-0 Pac-10) face Arizona State (9-8, 1-3) at 7 at Edmundson Pavilion, followed by a Friday night match at 7 with Arizona (11-5, 1-3). UW last hosted a home match Aug. 25, the first weekend of the season.
The schedule only gets tougher for Washington. Next week the Huskies travel to the Bay Area for matches at No. 10 California and No. 2 Stanford (the Pac-10 co-leader with UW at 3-0). They return home Oct. 18 and 19 to face No. 4 USC and No. 5 UCLA.
McLaughlin figures conditions will rarely be tougher than what UW faced Sept. 21 at Oregon's McArthur Court, where an amped-up crowd of 2,375 included the 160-member Oregon marching band.
"I've been in loud gyms before," McLaughlin said. "But when I walked in, it was like a wind hit me. Then I saw all these people in green shirts and thought, 'What the heck?' "
That same thought might have crossed McLaughlin's mind when the Huskies lost the first two games. The 19th-ranked Ducks, 11-1 at the time, had Washington reeling and the house rocking.
Senior outside hitter Stevie Mussie then ignited a UW rally that rescued a 3-2 win. The 5-foot-9 Mussie posted 15 of her match-high 27 kills in the final three games. Her play earned her Pac-10 player of the week honors a week ago.
Mussie, still building endurance after offseason knee surgery, is a likely starter tonight. Two weeks ago McLaughlin was debating which third hitter to team with All-American senior Christal Morrison and redshirt freshman Becky Perry — the high-intensity Mussie or freshman Kindra Carlson.
"She's always doing something that helps her team," McLaughlin said of Mussie, who leads UW in kills per game at 4.45. "She'll cover a hitter, dig a ball, do something that helps us."
"She has the ability to get hot as a hitter," he added. "I feel comfortable when she's out there — and more comfortable when her hitting is mechanically sound." He mentioned she was hitting well in Oregon, but not so against Washington State.
UW swept Washington State on Friday 3-0, when Mussie had 10 attack errors to go with 13 kills. Morrison topped Washington with 15 kills.
Taking the snaps
McLaughlin said freshman setter Jenna Hagglund played a vital role in the comeback against Oregon.
He likened her position to that of UW football player Jake Locker — "a freshman at quarterback asked to manage an offense and make good choices at right times.
"She's a great kid, and I'm still learning things about her, about how I can help her more. She's accepted this challenge in full, and she's going to go as far as she wants to go. She's that talented."
McLaughlin said Hagglund, sixth nationally in assists (13.68 per game), spent three hours on Sunday watching film with coaches.
• McLaughlin actually welcomed the boisterous scene at Oregon. "I thought that this is great for volleyball," he said. "I was kind of proud that they ... went to that much trouble to make things difficult for us."
• McLaughlin marvels at Morrison's dedication in her senior season. "Christal has just changed," he said. "She's working harder than she's ever worked."
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UPDATE - 10:18 PM
Washington State's Klay Thompson will play Thursday against Huskies