The Washington volleyball team’s season hasn’t been easy so far. It never is in the Pac-12, but the Huskies (13-9, 5-7 Pac-12) have gone five games without a win for the first time since 2001. After being ranked in 250 consecutive AVCA polls, Washington finished just outside the top-25 this week, ending a 15 year streak.
In four of those five losses, more than one set easily could’ve gone the other way and led to a Washington win. The major turning point that has allowed the UW’s opponents to come out on top has been hitting errors from Washington players.
“That’s been a major focus this week, hitting errors,” head coach Keegan Cook said. “The players like to hit the ball hard but they have to learn how to manage the game.”
Hitting the ball hard, which the Huskies do well, doesn’t always lead to scoring. Washington’s hitters are often sending the ball out of bounds or directly at their opponents, either right into the block or at a spot where it can get sent back for a kill. Rather than just hitting hard, they’re trying to add more variety to their hitting repertoire.
“We’ve been getting blocked at an awfully high rate,” Cook said. “Just making sure our hitters know when to be aggressive and when to be a little smarter. That also has been an emphasis this week for sure.”
Avoiding hitting errors is always the goal, the Huskies just haven’t been successful in turning it into reality in the last few weeks.
“We always go in a with a mindset that we need to limit our errors, hit higher, try not to get blocked so much,” junior Kara Bajema said. “I think we all know what we need to do and it’s just bad execution.”
This week, they want to finally bring what they’ve been working on in the practice gym to the court. While the string of losses seems demoralizing, Washington is trying to turn that into fuel for a win to end the streak.
“Losses in general give you an incentive and motivation to pick up on what your weaknesses were as a team and help you grow stronger,” Bajema said.
The Huskies may be coming off five straight losses but the Sun Devils are coming off six. They haven’t won since they first met the Huskies in Tempe at the beginning of the month, and if the losing streak is motivation for the Dawgs to come out and turn things around, it’s just as motivating for ASU.
“We’re both in the same boat,” Cook said. “Both of us are desperate to play a good match and pick up a win.”
The Huskies are hoping their second meeting with ASU will yield different results. While the big changes to the lineup since the beginning of the month didn’t put an end to the losing streak last weekend, the motivation to turn things around keeps building.
The Huskies will host Arizona State on Friday at 7 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena, and play Arizona at noon Sunday.
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