Mead High product Alexis Olgard wanted to get away when she made her decision to attend USC, but she’s looking forward to returning to the Inland Northwest.
Olgard, a 6-foot-5 freshman middle blocker who is seeing considerable playing time on USC’s fifth-ranked volleyball team, will be back in her home state this week with matches against No .10 Washington on Friday and Washington State on Saturday.
The Huskies were one of the finalists for Olgard, who was ranked as the fifth-best recruit in the nation by PrepVolleyball.com. The Cougars are less than two hours away from the family home.
“A lot of my family is coming and random people are telling me, ‘Yeah, I’m coming to your game (Saturday),’” Olgard said. “A lot of my high school team and my high school coach (Judy Kight) are coming. I’m excited to see everybody.”
Olgard is part of USC’s six-player recruiting class that was widely regarded as No. 1 in the country. A full-page picture of the six can be found just inside the cover of the team’s media guide.
“I think I just wanted to get out of Washington and when I visited here it was like a true family,” Olgard said. “I don’t really like being cold. I’m not a big fan of winter.”
It was 113 degrees in downtown Los Angeles on Monday. She’s off to a hot start on the court with 47 kills, 24 blocks, nine aces and a healthy .356 hitting percentage. She’s battling for a starting spot.
“It’s true that everything is quicker, the game is a whole lot faster than high school and club, but it’s a ton of fun,” Olgard said. “It’s hard work and it’s like a job, but a job pays off when you get a win.”
Head coach Mick Haley, who guided USC to national championships in 2002-03, said Olgard is right on schedule.
“She has great size, a wonderful self-concept,” said Haley, noting that Olgard has the potential to someday play on the U.S. national team. “She doesn’t get down on herself. She’s focused and competes and she has a smile on her face. That’s 50 percent of the battle when you’re a freshman, to enjoy the whole process.”
Olgard said the caliber of play at USC, which lists 10 players between 6-2 and 6-5, and the Pac-10, with six of the nation’s top 12 ranked teams, is impressive.
“During double days it was pretty intimidating, during the first game I was nervous,” she said. “But you just get used to it. You play as a team and the team is what matters, and the older girls have been amazing at welcoming the freshmen.”
Gonzaga has dropped 12 straight matches heading into the opening weekend of WCC play. It doesn’t get any easier, with visits to No. 24 San Diego on Thursday and Saint Mary’s, which is receiving votes in the Top 25, on Saturday.
“Nothing like taking a team that is struggling a little bit and putting them in the belly of the beast,” second-year coach Dave Gantt said half-jokingly.
Gantt said the Bulldogs are usually competitive, but they’ve failed to win crucial points that swing the outcome of sets. “The longer that happens, it’s like a guy’s batting average, the more you start pressing,” he said.
Due to a scheduling quirk, Idaho will face rival Boise State Wednesday and Saturday. The latter match marks the start of a four-game WAC homestand for the Vandals. Idaho’s home match against Utah State next Wednesday will be televised on ESPNU. … Eastern Washington senior Chenoa Coviare compiled a .477 hitting percentage and 16 blocks in wins over Idaho State and Weber State. “If you look at the tape, there are stretches in the fourth game of both matches where she completely took over,” coach Miles Kydd said. “The opposition could not get a ball by her.” …Senior middle blocker Lauren Mellor (Colfax High) leads Auburn with 38 blocks and 14 aces. She has 35 kills for the Tigers (11-5, 2-2 SEC). Chloe Rowan, a redshirt freshman middle from Lewis and Clark, has played in seven sets, registering four blocks. Auburn head coach Wade Benson, formerly the coach at EWU, is 33-45 in his third season.