The No. 13 Washington volleyball will wrap up non-conference play at the Boise State classic, kicking off against hosts Boise State Thursday at 6:30 p.m., with a doubleheader on Friday playing Cal State Northridge at 8:30 a.m. and Sacramento State at 4:00 p.m.
With matches beginning earlier in the week than usual, the Huskies (5-2) only had two days of practice before leaving for Boise, and a lot to pack into a short amount of time.
“I think we talked about wanting to be better around the net, especially in terms of blocking, and also our ability to score on the right side, both with our opposite hitter and with our slide attackers,” head coach Keegan Cook said. “Those are something we want to get better at in both serve-receive and transition so those two areas really stick out in where we spend our time.”
The Huskies’ two losses this season were also their worst blocking games, with only five blocks against No. 8 Illinois and three against No. 9 Pittsburgh. While success on blocking doesn’t mean an automatic win, there’s a definite correlation between Washington’s blocking performance and the final score.
Washington’s middle blockers have looked pretty strong offensively, but the block itself was at its best in the first weekend of the season. Ella May Powell, Samantha Drechsel, and Destiny Julye have also helped out, but there’s more work to be done.
Last weekend saw the Huskies struggle a little with scoring the ball, falling behind in kills in all three matches despite the two wins. Washington is looking for more from it’s hitters and blockers, especially as accurate hitting isn’t one of this roster’s strengths.
“Always looking to see more from Kara Bajema and Samantha Drechsel, Destiny Julye, all of our outside hitters,” Cook said. “Avie Niece hasn’t shown what she’s really capable of on both sides of the ball so, when you’re asking who we’re expecting to see more from I think it’s everybody.”
The Huskies are looking to do a little more on the right side so the offense can be a little more balanced.
“We’ve spent more time setting the right side, trying to find a tempo, a location that really puts our opposites in position to succeed,” Cook said. “We’d like to have a little balance there with some better scoring on the right.”
The Huskies hope that being more balanced in terms of offense will lead to the same consistency they’ve found with their gritty defensive play, and their hitters will join more consistent players
“I think Shayne McPherson and Ella May Powell — both really important pieces to our team’s success in terms of a setter and libero — they’ve been consistently good in these three weeks,” Cook said.
Powell, a freshman, has looked strong at setter offensively in the beginning of her first NCAA season, and McPherson, a junior, has been dependable defensively for the Huskies. The Huskies want consistency from more than just them as they close out non-conference play in Boise.
“We’re looking to go 3-0 here and hopefully outperform our opponents at the net, both hitting and blocking,” Cook said. “Those would be all small goals, but we only had two days of practice, it’s three matches this weekend in 18 hours, should take a lot of people doing a good job for us to be successful.”
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