SEATTLE – In front of large, loud crowds yelling at them to fail, the Husky volleyball team came out with big wins on the road at Illinois, at Washington State, and at Oregon. But that habit of sending opposing fans home unhappy came to an end last week at Colorado, where the Huskies played an uncharacteristically sloppy match and lost to the Buffs in four sets.
While Colorado deserved a lot of credit for playing very well and pulling off the upset, the Huskies simply did not look like themselves as they suffered their first loss of the year. Head Coach Jim McLaughlin started practice this week with a message about identity.
“The worst thing you can do, not just in volleyball but in life, is not be who you are,” he said. “Someone gets in your head or the conditions change you; you’ve got to fight to remain who you are.
“The transfer to volleyball is, we’re becoming something every day. Be proud of who you are and where you came from, but then become who you want to become. As you’re becoming every day, to take a step back because of the situation doesn’t make sense to me,” McLaughlin says.
The sixth-ranked Huskies will be back on their home court Friday night after four consecutive Pac-12 road matches. Washington (11-1, 3-1 Pac-12) faces Arizona on Friday at 8 p.m. in a “Black Out” night and then hosts 16th-ranked Arizona State on Sunday at 3 p.m. Senior Kylin Muñoz can hardly wait.
“Finally!” she exclaimed after practice this week. “It feels like we’ve been gone forever, and especially this week with the black out game I think it will be a great welcome home.”
Muñoz knows that every team in the league has the physical ability to beat any other. “In the Pac-12 obviously we’re against all these great athletes,” she says. “But what sets them apart is their mentality. It’s all about staying positive with your thoughts and controlling your thoughts so you’re able to play up to your ability.”
Washington is hoping that some boisterous home crowds will add a little more inspiration and give the opposing teams a little more to think about for once. These will be the first home matches this season where school is in session, meaning the Dawg Pack will be on point.
McLaughlin sees a great home court advantage as necessary for any great program.
“I think when a team does something great, it’s not about a coach or player, it’s about a large group of people doing a great job,” McLaughlin says. “Home court advantage is huge. I know people at Washington, there’s a pride, there’s a will to win. I know a lot of people who put their hearts, their souls, their contributions into this program. They want us to win and to be a great program you’ve got to have that.”
And the players will focus on being who they are, and becoming who they want to become.
“These kids want to become champions. That’s the end destination, but when you make an error in practice or don’t make the smart play, that’s not who you are,” says McLaughlin. “I know you don’t want to be that. I’ve seen enough plays where everybody can do what they are supposed to do, and that’s who they want to be. So let’s go out and be who you are.”