CORVALLIS, Ore. — Sometimes, it feels like there are two different Washington volleyball teams. The Huskies can be blowing out teams like in their 25-13 third set victory over Oregon State, scoring five blocks in a single set. Or, like in the second set of the same match, they can go down 25-22, unable to catch up.
“We’re still a tale of two teams at times,” head coach Keegan Cook said. “We can be really dominant and at times be a little lackadaisical on defense.”
That’s been the story of Washington’s season. In most of its losses, it doesn’t look like the same team. Players who usually hit with range struggle to put the ball on the ground. The block doesn’t hold up to the other team’s attack.
In the microcosm of a single game, it’s even more visible.
The Huskies (19-5, 10-4 Pac-12) hit .333 in the first set, with 14 kills on 27 swings. In the second set they hit .182, with only 12 kills on 44 swings. Those numbers don’t even include blocks, from which the Huskies got five points in the first set and only one in the second.
More than scoring, though, it was a question of shutting Oregon State down.
In the first and third sets, where the Huskies were dominating, the Beavers hit only .036 and .030, with nine errors in the first set and eight in the third thanks to the Washington block. In the second and fourth sets, the Beavers hit over .300.
“I think the difference is just consistency,” junior hitter Sam Drechsel said. “When we’re all just chugging along and playing well, it feels more free and it’s super consistent. But then we’ll have those bouts of ‘Oh no, what’s happening, why didn’t that go our way?’”
Washington’s success depends on a lot of things, but most significant on the scoresheet are the serve and the block.
Washington didn’t have its best serving night against the Beavers, serving four aces and 10 errors. In general, the Huskies are a strong serving team, and that means they struggle when the serve falters.
“I thought our serving was a little below par, which is something that we can fix,” Cook said.
The Huskies didn’t necessarily struggle on the block against Oregon State. They put up 14 blocks across four sets, but it wasn’t balanced across those sets. Washington had five blocks in the first set, four of them all in a row for a lead they maintained for the rest of the set.
In the second set, they only managed to block the Beavers once. Then, in the third set, it was back to five again. The UW’s blocking reflected its performance in general, going up and down throughout the match.
“Defense is really important to get a team’s momentum going,” senior outside hitter Kara Bajema said. “We always talk about defensive intensity, whether it’s on the block or the back row.”
The Huskies will head back home to face the mountain schools, playing Colorado at 8 p.m. on Friday and Utah at 1 p.m. on Sunday.
Reach Engagement Editor Hailey Robinson at firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @haileyarobin
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