Huskies, who lost matches at Stanford and California last week, will host Arizona schools in Pac-10 volleyball matches Friday and Saturday.
What might have appeared to be a breather weekend a few weeks ago now has the look of a two-night slugfest for a Washington volleyball team suddenly hungry for a win.
The seventh-ranked Huskies (15-3, 4-3 Pac-10), aiming to rebound from consecutive losses in the Bay Area last week, will tangle with No. 25 Arizona (14-6, 3-4) Friday and fast-rising Arizona State (8-11, 3-4) Saturday. Both matches at Edmundson Pavilion begin at 7 p.m.
Arizona lost five-set gut-wrenchers at home last weekend against No. 10 UCLA and No. 5 USC. The Wildcats fell 16-14 in the decisive set against UCLA; a night later they led USC 2-1 before dropping the fifth set 18-16.
ASU, meanwhile, startled both UCLA and USC with 3-1 upsets. After four straight Pac-10 losses, the Sun Devils have won three straight.
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Washington coach Jim McLaughlin said the Huskies played well in a 3-1 loss to No. 2 Stanford but only so-so in a 3-0 setback at now-No. 5 California. The Huskies, who have finished second in the Pac-10 each of the past four seasons, trail front-runners Stanford and Cal, both 7-1.
“When you play really good teams, the margin of error becomes thinner,” McLaughlin said. “The higher the level, the more you’re exposed, and those matches exposed some weaknesses we had. We gave them two or three points per rotation on errors; they gave us one or two.
“We were disappointed. Hopefully we’ve figured out what we’ve got to get better at and we’ll do it.”
Cal recorded more blocks (10-7) and digs (62-53) than the Huskies and outhit UW .288 to .195. Washington nearly pushed the Stanford match to a fifth set. The Huskies served for set point seven times in the fourth set but could not overcome Stanford’s 6-foot-4 All-American Alix Klineman.
“Klineman went off at the end,” McLaughlin said. “She put that team on her shoulders and was phenomenal. We were right there, but she stepped up and took over. We just have to keep getting better, and we’ve got six weeks to do it.”
• Russ Rose, coach of three-time defending national champion Penn State and a friend of McLaughlin’s, called the UW coach after watching the UW-Stanford match on TV. Rose to McLaughlin: “Stanford killed us, but you’re on their home court and right there with them. I know you guys are going to get better, and you’re going to get them at your place (Nov. 13).” McLaughlin: “That’s exactly what I was thinking. Hopefully this is just a blip and we can overcome it. But that is a tough road trip.”
• Back-to-back losses are uncommon for Washington, occurring just four times in UW’s past six-plus seasons. The Huskies last lost three straight in 2003.
• UW’s Pac-10 stat leaders: Kindra Carlson, second in hitting percentage, .412; freshman libero Jenna Orlandini, second in digs per set (4.48); senior setter Jenna Hagglund, second in assists per set (12.07); Carlson and Becky Perry, eighth and ninth in kills per set (3.95 and 3.88); Carlson, fourth in aces per set (0.38); Bianca Rowland, fifth in blocks per set (1.12).
• McLaughlin’s wish for this weekend: “Hit balls better in transition (when a defensive dig is converted into an offensive attack) and take opportunities when the opponent doesn’t hit clean. We dig them — then we have to make them pay. But Stanford and Cal did a better job of that. Stanford killed more balls in transition than we did.”
• Freshman outside hitter Kylin Munoz played just the first set against Cal after recording two errors and just one kill on four swings. “She’s got to get better,” McLaughlin said. “We put a lot more time into her this week and she’s watching film. She texted me: ‘Hey, let me get some more work.’ She’s a good kid. We’re going to give her the reps.”
• Stanford (16-1) hosts California (17-1) Friday in a battle for first place. Pac-10 play reaches the midpoint of its schedule after this weekend. UW is one of six teams either 4-3 or 3-4. “Every weekend in this conference is big,” McLaughlin said. “There are no nights off.”