Final Four core returns as UW volleyball seeks success | Volleyball

Washington celebrates after scoring a point during its 3-2 win over Stanford at the Alaska Airlines Arena on March 28, 2021. The Huskies are ranked No. 4 in the country heading into the 2021 season that begins Friday, March 27, August at 1:30 pm

Just four months after their 2020 Final Four season ended, Washington’s No. 4 volleyball team is back.

The Huskies, returning from the short offseason with nearly their entire lineup, will begin a three-week streak of out-of-conference matchups on Friday, Aug. 27.

In fourth place in the AVCA preseason polls, Washington begins this season four places higher than last year, where it started at No. 8. Unlike last season, where schedule changes prevented the UW from faced with non-conference opponents, Washington will play nine non-conference games. games before facing Pac-12 opponents.

The conference matchups resemble the pre-COVID-19 era schedule, with most teams meeting during the season twice, but not on the same weekend as last season. Washington is scheduled to play No. 19 Utah and Colorado just once.

The conference games warm-up will be welcome, as the Pac-12 continues to be a top-notch college volleyball conference. Half of the Pac-12 appears in the preseason poll of the top 25 AVCAs.

The streak of games outside of the conference should serve as a nice teaser for the season, but it won’t be without its challenging matchups either. Washington is set to face two nonconference-ranked opponents, No. 11 Ohio State and No. 22 Pepperdine, the first of which will be Washington’s second Test of the opening weekend.

Almost the entire talented Huskies roster returns this season due to extended eligibility, keeping key seniors like forward Samantha Drechsel and center back Lauren Sanders for another shot at the national championship. Other key players like junior Ella May Powell and freshman Madi Endsley will maintain their qualification from last season.

The Huskies add three new freshmen to their deep lineup this season: Libero Lauren Bays, hitter Audra Wilmes and setter Molly Wilson.

If much of the season remains in last place, Washington’s combination of strong leadership, talented returns and incoming players, and the excitement of returning from a conference title win and a Final Four appearance should carry the team. to where last season ended or better.

After last year’s loss at the end of the tournament, head coach Keegan Cook noted that his sights were on that.

“The mindset is going to be this stage right here,” he said. “And how do we get back here, what were we missing right now?”

Washington begins the season against Ohio at the Nationwide Arena in Columbus, the same venue as this year’s NCAA tournament. With an eye toward returning in December, the UW will play Ohio on Friday, August 27 at 1:30 p.m. and Ohio State the next day at 4 p.m.

Contact Co-Sports Editor Sydney Nash at Twitter: @sydneym_nash

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