Oct. 26, 2009
By Michael Jeremiah
It's easy to look at Kindra Carlson's last few weeks of serving and think that something has clicked for the Washington hitter. Always a talented server, Carlson has taken that aspect of her game to the next level since the start of Pac-10 play.
"It hasn't been the last couple weeks, It's been the last couple years," said Carlson with a laugh. "Mechanically, I've changed a lot of stuff and have been improving that way. If you're good mechanically you're going to be good."
The work put in is showing in her play recently. Through the first ten games of the season, Carlson was serving well but not racking up the crowd-pleases aces that other power servers can produce. Once the schedule flipped over to Pac-10 opponents, Carlson turned it up in all facets of her game, especially from the service line.
Through nine conference games, Carlson has 13 services aces, after tallying just one ace in UW's 10 non-conference matches. The only player ahead of her in aces in Pac-10 play is teammate Jill Collymore who has 16. On a team that has inherent competition due to the level of talent, the race for the top spot in the conference isn't measured by aces, but in team wins.
"(Jill and I) go out and try and do what we do every day," said Carlson. "If the aces happen they happen and if not, we're doing our routine every time and going through it."
Whether or not they feed off of each other, the weapons afforded to the Huskies by servers like Collymore and Carlson can be major weapons for the Huskies. In fact, Carlson showed that her serving alone can make a major difference. Against two tough Pac-10 opponents in UCLA and USC, Carlson combined for five service aces against in a pair of victories. She also led the Huskies in kills in both matches.
But as is often the case when a team is striving to develop and improve a specific skill, it can be a case of two steps forward and one step back. Washington's aggressive serving won it a number of points this past weekend against Washington State, but the Huskies also were hurt by a season-high amount of service errors in suffering just their second loss of the season.
Washington's only previous loss at Stanford also had a higher than usual number of service miscues, going to show how important effective serving can be for the Husky attack. Coach Jim McLaughlin has tried to instill in his players is that serving and passing are the most important parts of the game. The Husky serve has to be at a consistenly high level for the Huskies to fulfill the potential of such a talented roster.
When the Huskies are on top of their serving game, they have been nearly impossible to beat this season. Look no further than the Pac-10 opener at then-No. 7 Oregon, when UW banged home 11 aces against just four errors to hand the Ducks their first loss of the year.
Carlson will be an important part of fulfilling that potential. If she can balance the aggressive style of serving that sends opposing defenses scrambling and disrupts their system, while keeping down the errors, Washington will be that much closer to making a long post-season run.
Carlson knows that the talent from the service line on the team is a tool that when on target can be used in games, as well as in the Husky practices.
"We have some good servers on our team," said Carlson. "When we play other teams with good servers we're used to them."
After the first half of Pac-10 play, the Huskies sit in a tie for first along with Stanford in the toughest conference in the nation. Coach McLaughlin's teams have historically made their second go-round the Pac stronger than the first, and the quality of every opponent in the league this demands that type of play once again.
"The intensity is definitely higher," said Carlson. "We try to achieve every play every day and try to do great stuff all the time. I think since the teams are good we know we have to be better and keep striving for greatness."
Every point starts with a serve or a service reception, and if Washington is doing both better than the team across the net, they will be a force to be reckoned with come tournament time.