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Lowest of Lows, Highest of Highs

Ugly loss at WSU and massive win at #1 Stanford cap wild week for 8th-ranked VB

Ed Strong

Last Wednesday, #8 Washington opened the Pac-12 volleyball season in Pullman, playing an unranked (albeit close to being ranked) Washington State squad, whose best win so far had been at 6-4 James Madison.

On Sunday, the Huskies played the final game of the week for the conference, going to Palo Alto to face #1 Stanford in a building that has been a UW house of horrors for over a decade.

They went 1-1 but in the unexpected order, starting and ending an upset-laden opening week for the conference.

UW came into the WSU match red-hot, having defeated three straight top-20 opponents coming in: at Creighton and then both ends of a home-and-home with Wisconsin, with the home win being a sweep, powered by one of the most dominant offensive performances they’ve had in years.

After winning a relatively close first set, the offense never really found its gear the rest of the way. The Cougars came out with a 3-1 win (22-25, 25-22, 25-20, 25-20), marking the first time since 2001 that WSU has beaten UW twice in a row (WSU also beat UW in 2018 regular-season finale).

Starting OH2 Claire Hoffman missed the match with an injury, and Shannon Crenshaw didn’t have a good match in her place. About the only bright spot was libero Shayne McPherson, who had a season-high 25 digs to give UW a chance.

Hoffman returned on Sunday and had a good match, but more importantly, the Huskies played a much better match overall and also got luckier with their opponent. Stanford’s offense wasn’t just bad by their own lofty standards. It was unrecognizably bad. At multiple times, it looked like UW was playing a team of all-stars that had never once practiced together – occasional great individual plays, but the connections between Stanford players just seemed off all day long.

UW middle blockers Lauren Sanders and Avie Niece had really good games on Sunday, significantly outplaying the elite Stanford combo of Madeleine Gates and Holly Campbell. Huskies took it in four remarkably noncompetitive sets (25-17, 18-25, 25-15, 25-16), earning their first win at Maples Pavilion since October 12, 2007.

Pac-12 standings, with new AVCA rankings

I present to you the result of the wackiest opening week #Pac12VB has probably ever had.

T-1. UCLA (7-4, 2-0 Pac-12)
T-1. Oregon State (8-5, 2-0)
T-3. #3 Stanford (7-3, 1-1)
T-3. #8 Washington (10-2, 1-1)
T-3. #19 California (11-1, 1-1)
T-3. #20 Utah (9-4, 1-1)
T-3. #24 Washington State (12-2, 1-1)
T-3. #25 Oregon (5-6, 1-1)
T-3. (RV) USC (7-5, 1-1)
T-3. Arizona State (9-4, 1-1)
T-11. (RV) Colorado (8-4, 0-2)
T-11. Arizona (10-4, 0-2)

Not only did only two teams manage to go 2-0, the only two who did – Oregon State and UCLA – are two of only four teams not to be receiving top 25 votes in the AVCA poll. Bonkers.

#Pac12VB Week 2 (most matches are Friday night and Sunday afternoon):

  • UW & WSU at USC & UCLA
  • Stan & Cal at UO & OSU
  • Utah & CU at UA & ASU

Huskies schedule:

  • Fri, 8 p.m.: at #25 USC (Pac-12 Net/WA/LA)
  • Sun, 2 p.m.: at UCLA (Pac-12 Net/WA/LA)