I’m helping out with The Seattle Times’ coverage of the NCAA volleyball championship this week. No. 3 seed Washington made the Final Four, creating a unique vibe around KeyArena. There were scattered single tickets available on Wednesday, more could pop up Thursday as teams return what they couldn’t sell to their own fans.
UW plays No. 2 seed Penn State 30 minutes after defending champion Texas, a No. 1 seed, faces No. 12 seed Wisconsin at 4:30pm (PT) on Thursday at KeyArena. The matches will air on ESPN2. The championship match is set for Saturday night.
“You’ve gotta be there,” UW coach Jim McLaughlin said of his team knowing all season the Final Four would be in its hometown and wanting to be part of the field.
“You’ve gotta work real hard and take advantage of this opportunity that some other people gave you,” he continued of the planning that was involved in bringing the championship to Seattle. “So it’s a very, very special thing to be here in front of our fans and then have the whole United States volleyball come to Seattle which is kind of neat. These guys have prepared for every week for every challenge, and the challenges have become more significant. They know they have prepared…and they know that they’re ready for this.”
While the Huskies volleyball team takes over KeyArena, the school’s basketball team is in Las Vegas for a three-game tournament this weekend. F Heather Corral is roomamtes with Krista Vansant, the star outside hitter on the volleyball team who was named an All-American on Wednesday.
— Heather Ann (@h_corral) December 18, 2013
VIVA LAS VEGAS: UW hoops opens the “Duel in the Desert” against Louisiana-Monroe (4-5) on Thursday at 2:30 (PT) at UNLV’s Cox Pavilion. Washington plays DePaul (5-3) on Friday 2:30pm (PT) and finishes the tournament against Pittsburgh (6-4) at noon on Saturday. UW is entering play after a solid weekend defeating Wisconsin (80-67) and Montana State (83-60) at Alaska Airlines Arena last week.
The three games in Vegas will be available via webcast from the UNLV tournament website. The games will also be broadcast on 1150 KKNW with Steve Sandmeyer on the call. I forget to mention this often during the season, so do remember that Sandmeyer covers all of the games on the station. I’ll only point out the television coverage because it’s rare.
RANK ‘EM: If you’re looking for a positive after Gonzaga’s 73-45 loss to No. 6 Stanford last week, I’ve got an easy one. At least the Zags didn’t look unprepared to play a powerhouse like No. 2 Duke did in a 83-61 loss to No. 1 UConn on Tuesday. GU just couldn’t shoot the open shots it was given, going 0-for-14 from three-point range after shooting 7-for-15 from the same range in a win at Wisconsin four days earlier. The Zags remain ranked, slipping to No. 25. Duke may take a steeper tumble come Monday.
TV ALERT: Pac-12 Networks will air some biggies this weekend. Saturday starts with No. 25 Gonzaga (9-2) playing at Washington State at 11:30am on the network. The Cougs (6-5) upset the Zags in Spokane last season. No. 6 Stanford (9-1) hosts No. 3 Tennessee (10-0) on Saturday at 1:30pm on the network. On Sunday, No. 21 Cal (7-2) plays at No. 1 UConn (11-0) at 1:30pm on ESPN.
POW: Here’s a list of conference Player of the Weeks based on ties from programs in Washington (UW, WSU, Gonzaga, Seattle U and Eastern Washington).
Pac-12: Utah senior F Michelle Plouffe.
WCC: San Diego junior F Katelyn McDaniel.
WAC: Grand Canyon senior G Justine Johnson.
Big Sky: Eastern Washington senior F Aubrey Ashenfelter and North Dakota senior F Madi Buck.
GOLDEN APPLE: Gotta go with Eastern Washington F Aubrey Ashenfelter. She nailed the game-winning jumper with two seconds remaining to defeat Idaho 85-84 on Saturday. Ashenfelter finished with career-highs in points (20) and assists (10) with seven rebounds. It’s a solid win for the program, too. Idaho (7-5) won the WAC tournament last season, earning the automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. If the Vandals have a strong conference season, the win for EWU could add weight in terms of outlook for its own tourney hopes. The Eagles (3-5) are predicted to win the Big Sky.
VANDERSLOOT LOAN: There are reports former Zag star Courtney Vandersloot’s Hungarian club, Uni Gyor, has announced she will not return after the New Year. She’ll join the defending Italian champions Famila Schio. Vandersloot, an All-Star PG for the Chicago Sky, was a replacement player for PG Samantha MacKay, who was part of the team that suffered injuries in a bus accident in September. MacKay is returning to the team in January but will not be able to play due to continued rehab for her neck injuries.
FUTURE OLYMPIAN?: Former Kennewick HS star Leilani Mitchell (New York Liberty) is headed to Canberra in January to be part of the Opals national team training camp. Mitchell, whose mother is Australian, qualified for a passport and has been playing in the WNBL this offseason. Her mother, Ellie Majid, died of breast cancer in 2009.
The Opals camp is part of the tryout for the World Championship team. The next stop would be Rio for the 2016 Olympic Games. The Aussies need help at PG due to Kristi Harrower’s retirement and injuries to Erin Phillips (Indiana Fever) and Sam Richards. Another G, Kathleen MacLeod, is pregnant.
REPLAY: Boy have I been holding back on the video sharing. Well, not if you follow me on Twitter. But here’s some of what I’ve been watching.
First up is a Merry Christmas from USA Basketball. UW freshman G Kelsey Plum is in the mix:
UW G Jazmine Davis plays the ukulele for the school’s station:
Storm F Tianna Hawkins is playing well for Uniqua Euroleasing Sopron in Hungary:
Earlier this month, Storm stars Tanisha Wright and Camille Little suffered a hard loss, 82-45, with their Turkish Kayseri Kaski spors to PG Sue Bird’s Russian UMMC Ekaterinburg (which also features former Storm posts Ewa Kobryn and Ann Wauters). At least the after party clip posted on Little’s Instagram account seemed fun. Here are the game highlights: