Among the many intangible plums Jen Greeny gleaned by taking the Washington State volleyball job last March was the chance finally to coach Rachel Todorovich. Two years late is better than never.
Todorovich, No. 2 on the Cougars’ kill list last year, had originally committed to Greeny’s team at Lewis-Clark State before being wooed away to Pullman – a move that, in Greeny’s mind, may have cost the Warriors an NAIA title.
But the incident perhaps illustrates how reasonable a jump Greeny will be making in her first season at Washington State. In football, it would be hard to imagine a 34-year-old NAIA coach leaping directly to the helm of a school in a Bowl Championship Series conference. For one thing, the recruiting pools would be too different.
Greeny, on the other hand, routinely battled NCAA coaches for players during her four-year run at LCSC, where she went 112-24 at the NAIA level and claimed four Frontier Conference titles in her first college head-coaching job. She now returns to her alma mater, familiar both with the Cougars’ bygone glory years and with the prep talent pool that will be key in efforts to revive the program.
“Especially anybody in the Northwest,” Greeny, a Davenport High School graduate, said this week. “At L-C, I think we did a good job recruiting players that either came from (an NCAA) Division I school or were also looking to go to a Division I school. I know we had four or five or six just in the last couple of years.”
Not that she had to pound the recruiting trail to assemble her present WSU roster. All seven of her incoming freshmen had signed early with predecessor Andrew Palileo, who resigned in March after going 34-54 in three seasons. Greeny’s only addition is sophomore setter Camryn Irwin, a transfer from the University of Oregon, who was the Cougars’ starting setter in their season-opening victory on Friday.
In any case, this is a young team, the only senior being 6-foot-3 outside hitter Meagan Ganzer, who led the Cougars with 3.94 kills per set last year and was given All-Pac-10 honorable mention.
The only other player with significant experience is Todorovich, so Greeny is doubly thankful to have her. As a prep recruit out of Walla Walla, she initially failed to impress Palileo with a video of her setting skills, instead committing orally with Greeny at LCSC. Palileo later watched Todorovich at a tournament in a more suitable role, as hitter, and the 6-2 left-hander soon became a Cougar. She’s now a junior right-side hitter.
“Either way, she’s a great person and I know she would have made our Lewis-Clark State team very good,” Greeny said. “We maybe would have won a (national) championship. But we’re just happy to be coaching her now.”
Other sports are up for grabs. Three of the eight players to see action on Friday were freshmen. With all this youth, not to mention a transition from Palileo’s unorthodox on-court schemes, Greeny is stressing fundamentals and avoiding specifics about her immediate goals in the expanded Pac-12 Conference. Palileo, a year after guiding the Cougars to their first NCAA berth in six seasons, went winless in Pac-10 matches in 2010.
But Greeny has been grounded in a system that clearly worked at WSU, that of Cindy Fredrick, who captured nine NCAA tournament berths in 15 years. Greeny, as Jennifer Stinson, racked up more than 1,000 kills in four years under Fredrick and assistant Mashallah Farokhmanesh in the late 1990s, then spent the same amount of time on their Cougar coaching staff.
Greeny’s own staff, which includes Pat Stangle and Greeny’s husband, Burdette, will get a volunteer boost from a former WSU teammate, Shannon Wyckoff Hunt. Allusions to the Fredrick years will no doubt be frequent.
“What Cindy and Farok did here is they trained athletes how to be volleyball players,” Greeny said. “That was me. I wasn’t really a volleyball player. I was a basketball player, and they taught me how to be a volleyball player.
“So that’s what we’re trying to do, in terms of going back to the basics. We’re really trying to focus on the little things that will make these players better.”
Cougars win opener
Jen Greeny picked up her first victory as the Cougars’ head coach as WSU won its season opener in a four-set victory over Santa Clara at the Seattle University Fall Volley Tournament.
Meagan Ganzer led the Cougars with 21 kills, hitting .366, and Rachel Todorovich added 14 kills (.414) and led the match with 14 digs. Cougar setter Camryn Irwin had 45 assists and 13 digs. Marcelina Glab led the match with a career-high eight blocks. The Cougars had a 13-3 advantage in blocks.
WSU will play Eastern Washington today before facing Seattle.