COLLEGE PARK, Md. — When seventh-ranked Washington gets right, watch out.
“There’s no ceiling, honestly,” senior setter Bailey Tanner said. “I’m stoked.”
Thursday’s 25-8, 25-10, 25-23 rout of Oklahoma might not be an indicator for a number of reasons. The Sooners (3-7) bowed up late, but are struggling. And Washington is without a key cog in six-rotation senior outside Crissy Jones, still not ready to come back from an ankle injury.
But the rest of the Huskies? They quietly dismantled Oklahoma in the first two sets to improve to 9-1 with their seventh win in a row.
Senior reserve setter Jade Finau had six aces. Senior libero had three more. Their team hit .429, led by senior Courtney Schwan’s 10 kills. Right-side Carly DeHoog (more on her later) had nine kills and hit .667. And freshman middle Lauren Sanders had seven kills, hit .500 and had five blocks, two solo, while senior middle Marion Hazelwood — who transferred from Oklahoma — had seven kills, also hit .500 and had four blocks.
“Jade and Tia were just unreal serving,” Tanner said. “They kept the pressure on them, they couldn’t find those serves off, so they were out of system all match.”
Well mostly, maybe not so much in the third set when Oklahoma pulled to 24-23 before serving into the net to end it.
Regardless, Tanner has a lot of setting options.
“Target-wise, it’s really awesome and makes my job a lot easier,” said the 6-foot-1 Tanner, a product of San Clemente, Calif. “If one hitter isn’t feeling it, I have so many more people who are good to go to, And leadership-wise it’s super nice because everyone is back from last year plus like we upgraded big-time.”
“I’m pretty lucky,” Tanner said. “We’re pretty excited about this year.”
Her coach, Keegan Cook, agreed.
“There’s a good foundation, serving and passing, as you saw, we can do a nice job there. You always have that to build on,” Cook said. “Offensively we’ve been kind of stuck and kind of broke out today and did a lot of nice things, managed the game and hit a lot of balls in.
“But we are still trying to play to be a December team and we’ve had to take our licks early on and tomorrow will be a big challenge against a good Maryland team.”
Washington plays the homestanding Terps at 7 p.m. Eastern — who played No. 18 later Thursday — in a match that can be seen on BTN Plus.
Washington went 29-5 last season and won the Pac-12 at 16-4. The Huskies lost in the regional final to Nebraska. Consider, too, that Scambray played every set of the season as an outside hitter and averaged 3.08 kills per set. Now the 6-foot product of Dana Point, Calif., is the libero.
“One of the best receivers in the game, one of the best servers in the game, and I just think she’s going to make a big difference back there for us come December.”
Jones — who sustained an ankle sprain and bone bruise the day before the first match of the season — is close to returning and so, too, is 6-1 Russian outside Maria Bogomolova, who had a concussion. Jones averaged 3.08 kills last season and led the team with 38 aces.
So, yes, there’s plenty of reason to be stoked. What’s more, Washington’s only loss was in the third match of the season to now-No. 9 Creighton, a four-set home defeat that in retrospect doesn’t look so bad.
And finally there’s the story of DeHoog, the 6-4 fifth-year senior from Ontario, Calif.
“It’s been a long five years,” DeHoog admitted. And she also admitted there were plenty of times she thought about quitting after those first three injury-plagued years.
“For sure,” she said. “There are times when you wonder if it’s worth it when you rehab for 10 months and you don’t know how you’re going to be. There were definitely some low days, but the people I’ve had in my corner since I’ve been here have made it easier.”
After Thursday she and Schwan — last year’s Pac-12 player of the year — led the team with 99 kills each. DeHoog was hitting an even .400.
“Her story is one that I don’t think gets told enough,” Cook said. “Her first year she comes in and gets hurt and has to redshirt. Comes back her sophomore year and she’s behind Kaleigh Nelson, an All-American. Then she’s behind Crissy Jones, an All-American.
“Then in her third year she jumps into the scene, hitting .300 and in October (2015) sprains her ankle. No big deal, but that ankle turns into a micro-fracture surgery, which, as you know, has ended many NBA careers.
“She spends 10 months off the court by herself in the training room. Comes back for what would be her senior year, but it’s her redshirt junior year and doesn’t make it into the starting lineup. What does she do? I think a lot of kids would say, hey, it’s been a good career, but …
“She comes back, gets into the best shape of her life and look at her now: Leading the team in kills, hitting almost .400, it’s a cool story about someone who’s pretty resilient.”
DeHoog smiled when considering these first 10 matches of the season.
“Last year I felt like I was just playing catch up to get back to where I was in our 2015 season,” she said. “After last season and the offseason training, I felt like I was getting back to wher I was in 2015. And now I feel like I’ve grown past that.
“It feels good to be back in a place where I can keep getting better rather than trying to catch up and be in a recovery mode. Yeah, it’s been a good start to the season. It’s been fun.”