Cougars roll along with roster of youngsters
Scanning the Washington State University volleyball roster, ‘FR’ and ‘SO’ appear repeatedly under year in school and ‘HS’ and ‘TR’ dominate in the experience column.
Those stand for freshman, sophomore, high school and transfer.
“I don’t think we could be any younger,” said first-year head coach Jen Greeny, “but it’s just been a great learning experience for a lot of these young players. We’ve definitely been inconsistent and that’s one thing we need to be focused on, but that will come with experience.”
Meagan Ganzer, a senior with three years of varsity experience, and Rachel Todorovich, a junior with two seasons in the program, are the only players on the roster of 16 without an FR/SO or HS/TR next to their names. Ganzer is the lone senior and only four players saw time as Cougars last season.
None of this was a surprise to Greeny, who guided NAIA Lewis-Clark State College to four straight Frontier Conference titles before signing on to rebuild her alma mater. Greeny (then Stinson) helped Cindy Fredrick-coached WSU to three NCAA tournaments and an Elite Eight from 1995-98 and she still ranks on the career kills and blocks lists.
By the time Greeny took the job, the roster was essentially set. Several players from ex-coach Andrew Palileo’s roster had departed – including former Lewis and Clark standout Oceana Bush – and Greeny’s only recruiting addition was Oregon transfer Camryn Irwin.
WSU is off to a solid start with an 8-2 record (last year’s team won just six matches) and two tournament titles, but Greeny knows she faces a tough task, made tougher by the fact that the Pac-12 is the premier conference in the nation.
The latest poll has California No. 1, Stanford No. 2, Washington No. 4 and UCLA No. 6. No. 13 USC dropped out of the top 10 after losing to UCLA. The Los Angeles schools visit WSU this weekend.
“With the conference we’re in, I don’t know if I’ve really seen a rebuilding process that might be as tough as this one,” Greeny said. “What we’ve done so far is not focus so much on wins and losses, but on the little things, getting better in practice every day, taking every moment as a learning opportunity.”
Ganzer has collected three tournament MVPs while averaging 5.07 kills per set. Todorovich is hitting .276 with 98 kills. Newcomers, including setter Irwin and freshmen Jaicee Harris, Ver’Leea Hardaway, Chelsey Bettinson and defensive specialist Shawna Lum, are seeing extended playing time.
“It’s hard for a coach to sometimes have that patience because we have so much youth,” Greeny said. “But they are definitely getting better and working hard every day.”
Eastern Washington and Whitworth open their conference seasons this weekend.
EWU (4-6) entertains Weber State on Friday and Idaho State on Saturday. The Eagles, who knocked off Washington State in five sets last month, missed the Big Sky Tournament last season for the first time in 14 seasons.
“The girls have their three goals on my (office) door and I definitely think there’s motivation,” coach Miles Kydd said of last season’s sixth-place finish. “They understand it’s going to be a struggle, but they’re not happy with how last year went.”
Cora Kellerman, a medical redshirt last season, leads EWU with 124 kills. Shelby Puckett (Tekoa-Oakesdale) has 116 kills. Middle blocker Chenoa Rossi-Childress will miss at least two weeks with a knee injury.
Whitworth, picked to repeat as Northwest Conference champions, opens conference play at home against George Fox on Friday and Pacific on Saturday.
“We lost to (NWC rivals) Puget Sound and Pacific Lutheran (at a tournament) the first weekend, but we were not at full strength and we played with them point for point,” coach Steve Rupe said. “It’ll be a toss-up with the three of us, but I think we have more potential than the other two.”
Idaho (4-5), Gonzaga (6-4) and North Idaho College (8-5) open their conference slates next week.
Community Colleges of Spokane (11-3, 1-0 NWAACC East) entertains Wenatchee Valley tonight.
Gonzaga’s six wins are two more than it had last season. … Idaho faces a busy week on the road with Portland tonight, Long Beach State on Friday and UC Irvine on Saturday before opening WAC play against No. 11 Hawaii in Moscow on Sept. 22. … NIC went 5-0 and dropped just one set in capturing CCS’s Inland Northwest Communications Tournament last weekend. Middle blocker Yang Yang and setter Sierra Pancho (Newport High) earned first-team all-tournament honors and middle blocker Janele Vogt (Lewis and Clark) was second team.