Huskies Put Hard Work On Display In Season Opener
Aug. 23, 2012
The beginning of another Husky volleyball season brings with it a certain set of expectations. When UW takes to the floor for the first time this Friday against Boise State at 7 p.m. at Alaska Airlines Arena, the 14th-ranked Huskies will expect a high level of play from themselves. That expectation has been built on 10 consecutive NCAA tournaments, three Final Fours, six Elite Eights, and a 2005 national title.
But for 12th-year head coach Jim McLaughlin, the most important thing is what happens in the gym each and every day at practice.
"I just want them to understand that as much as I like this team, and I think there's a chance for this group, the reality is that our team is only going to do as well as we can learn in the gym. So that's what we need to be really concerned about." No doubt, the Huskies will be looking to win a fourth consecutive Northwest Challenge this weekend, with two more matches on Saturday, but "if we play well and feel good about that, was it better than the day before? Are we doing things the things we need to do with greater regularity?"
The Northwest Challenge has consisted of the Huskies, Boise State, Gonzaga, and Portland State since its inception in 2008. UW will play Gonzaga on Saturday at 12 noon, and then Portland State at 7 p.m. on Saturday.
On paper, the Huskies return a lot of talent with some key holes to fill. Krista Vansant established herself as the offensive leader last year as she earned Pac-12 Freshman of the Year honors. Jenna Orlandini is a two-year starter at libero. Seniors Kylin Muñoz and Kelly Holford, and juniors Gabbi Parker and Jenni Noguerashave battled through the Pac-12 several times now and have all experienced an NCAA Elite Eight run in 2010 as well as last year's tough to forget five set loss in the second round.
Every player on the roster will have a part to play for the 2012 squad. "I believe that this group has some of those intrinsic values that go beyond talent. That will define this team," McLaughlin says. "Everyone's got to expand their ability. Everyone's got to do their job and then we can become teammates and say and do things that make each other better."
The Huskies will begin to get some return for their work this Friday in front of a home crowd that once again led the Pac-12 in attendance last year with more than 2,500 fans per match. But the Dawgs will be a work in progress all season.
"We're going to put them in situations where they can learn it individually, each person understanding what they need to do, what they're learning. Then we're going to put them into group situations where they can learn as a group, team situations where they can respond individually and collectively. There's a process to that."
The biggest area this early in the season is aggressiveness, and a willingness to "make the errors and learn from the errors and not be apprehensive in any way, shape, or form," says McLaughlin. "Doing things in a very deliberate manner but with every ounce of energy we have. Thus far they've shown good carryover. It's encouraging at this point and we're just going to keep putting them in these situations and rehearse them over and over and develop the confidence. Their decisions become part of them."