More than 13 months after the Washington volleyball team’s last official match — a loss at top-seeded Baylor in the Elite Eight of the NCAA tournament — the eighth-ranked Huskies return to action.
Washington will host Arizona State — without fans — at 3 p.m. Friday, and the teams will play again at 3 p.m. Saturday.
The season normally begins in late August, but was delayed several months because of the coronavirus.
“There is certainly a lot of excitement and there is curiosity about your team,” said Washington coach Keegan Cook. “It’s kind of a similar feeling to how you would feel when you’re in August and starting nonconference — the only difference being these are conference matches right off the bat, so we’re throwing ourselves right into the fire.”
The Huskies should handle it just fine, if preseason predictions mean something. They were picked second — behind Utah — in the preseason coaches poll. And UW also got the benefit of playing an exhibition match against Portland last Saturday, winning three of four games while using many different lineups.
“I think it was huge. You can’t replicate what it’s like to put on the jersey, and with so many young players getting their first start — it was important to let them go through those natural emotions,” Cook said of the exhibition.
Washington had three players on the preseason All-Pac-12 team: junior setter Ella May Powell, senior middle blocker Lauren Sanders and senior outside hitter Samantha Drechsel. No other Pac-12 team had more than two players receive preseason honors.
Powell, a third-team All-American last season, underwent surgery to repair a torn meniscus in the fall, “but has been working feverishly to get herself back, and she’s playing now,” Cook said.
“In a lot of these early-season matches, it is hard to predict what is going to happen, but when you have a fixed point, like a setter, that certainly helps,” Cook said.
Because of COVID-19, the Pac-12 schedule looks much different than normal with teams playing an opponent twice in a weekend, at the same location.
“Your intensity on that opponent goes way up, and then you don’t see them again the rest of the year,” Cook said.