SEATTLE - Having successfully defended home court for the last four matches, the third-ranked Husky volleyball team returns to the road, visiting UCLA and fourth-ranked USC this weekend to wrap up the first half of the Pac-12 schedule. Both matches will be televised live on the Pac-12 Networks.
Washington (15-1, 7-1 Pac-12) heads first to Pauley Pavilion to face the Bruins (11-7, 2-6) on Friday with an 8 p.m. start time. Sunday, Oct. 27, the Huskies and Trojans (17-2, 7-1) meet for the first time this season in a battle of two teams that have held the No. 1 ranking already this year. The Huskies were ranked No. 1 at the start of October before suffering their only loss at Colorado. USC was ranked No. 1 just last week but was knocked from that spot this week after a road loss at Arizona on Sunday.
The Huskies and Trojans are currently tied for the lead in the Pac-12 race with 7-1 records, with No. 6 Stanford a game back at 6-2. UCLA lost its first five Pac-12 matches but has won two of its last three, including an upset of Arizona State in Tempe in its last match to take some momentum into this week. Junior Karsta Lowe is playing at a high level this year, averaging 4.06 kills per set to rank fifth in the Pac-12.
The Trojans and Huskies have split their last 10 meetings, but the Dawgs have not won at USC since 2008. While the Huskies are the top-ranked team in aces, it’s Trojan sophomore Samantha Bricio that leads the NCAA with 0.78 aces per set. Senior Natalie Hagglund is also one of the nation’s top liberos, and leads the Pac-12 with 4.78 digs per set. USC also gets big contributions from senior middle Alexis Olgard, second in the Pac-12 with a .456 attack percentage and fourth with 1.24 blocks per set, and freshman outside hitter Ebony Nwanebu who averages 3.11 kills per set and has been named Pac-12 Freshman of the Week four times already.
Washington is coming off two big home wins over California last Wednesday and over Stanford on Sunday in five back-and-forth sets. Junior Krista Vansant was named Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week this week after she had a career-high 20 digs against Stanford, along with 23 kills, the first 20-20 match for a Husky since Kindra Carlson in 2009. Vansant is also just the second Pac-12 player to win Offensive, Defensive, and Freshman of the Week honors since the awards were split into three in 2011.