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7th-ranked Husky Volleyball Hitting their Stride

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A thorough beatdown of previously-undefeated Maryland on the road showed the Dawgs are ready for the tough grind of Pac-12 volleyball coming up.

A home non-conference loss, albeit one to a top-10 Creighton opponent, the first regular season non-conference loss by Husky volleyball since 2008 at Hawaii. A disappointing offensive performance in a close win against a decent, but unspectacular, Santa Clara squad. Multiple close calls against lesser competition at a tourney hosted by Pepperdine, both against the host Waves and the Wyoming Cowgirls. Although ranked #7 in the country entering the final week of conference play, the Huskies had yet to really play up to their potential.

Last Thursday, UW improved to 9-1 by routing Oklahoma in straight sets. In of itself, this result wasn’t particularly notable. Oklahoma is going to struggle mightily in the Big 12 this year, having already been in the bottom tier of the conference the past few years when now-Husky All-American middle blocker Marion Hazelwood was still in crimson and cream prior to her transfer to UW.

The emergence of Jade Finau as a service specialist, however, was impressive to watch. Finau, a backup setter the past few years, has seen her playing time at setter diminish to near-nothing with the improved health of starter Bailey Tanner. Her role has become one where she really just plays one rotation: subbing in to serve in place of one of the middle blockers. But with such a focus on one part of her game, Finau has delivered big time.

Against the Sooners, she piled up a career-high SIX aces in just three sets. That tripled her previous career-high, and was the highest total a Husky has had since star Cassie Strickland, she of the mega-booming serve, also had 6 against Utah in 2014. But what makes Finau’s serve even more dangerous? She’s been able to get these high ace numbers without a power serve, which is far more likely to result in a service error. Jade hits a sinking knuckleball, intended to dive in front of the back row. She had 7 aces in the two games without committing a single service error.

The next day, against a Maryland squad that came into the game at 11-0, having upset 18th-ranked USC the day before, the Huskies showed the complete package in a systematic destruction of the host Terrapins (25-11, 25-19, 25-18). In one of the most remarkable displays of offensive efficiency I’ve ever seen, the Huskies hit a ridiculous .640 hit in the first set, and did not commit a single attack error until almost halfway through set 2. The nine aces the Huskies piled up against OU (Finau with 6, Tia Scambray had the other 3) was eclipsed by 10 against the Terps (Courtney Schwan led the charge with 3, McPherson and Scambray added 2 each, plus Julye, Finau, and Bajema). Those 10 aces easily dwarfed the total of 3 service errors made as a team. For reference, having equal numbers of service errors and service aces is a very good ratio, never mind a 3:1 ratio.

The timing of this surge in performance, led by brilliant serving, comes just in time for Pac-12 play. The 7th-ranked Dawgs (10-1) open conference play in Pullman against the rival Cougars (11-1, receiving some T25 votes) on Wednesday night before heading to the desert to face the Sun Devils (10-2) on Sunday afternoon.

Schedule (times are PDT):

Wednesday, September 20th: #7 Washington at (RV) Washington State – 6 PM (Pac-12 Net/WA)

Sunday, September 24th: #7 Washington at Arizona State – 1 PM (Pac-12 Net/WA/AZ)

Go Dawgs.