September 18, 2012 in Sports

WSU, GU take solid starts into conference openers

By The Spokesman-Review
 

In investing and volleyball, past performance doesn’t necessarily predict future success.

But it sure doesn’t hurt.

Washington State and Gonzaga have put together solid pre-conference seasons. Now, can the two rebuilding programs translate that into success in their respective conferences?

The Cougars (10-2) have won nine straight entering tonight’s match at No. 5 Washington (9-0). It will be televised on the Pac-12 Network.

WSU routinely posts strong nonconference records, but the Pac-12 is the nation’s best conference again with five of the top eight in the AVCA Top 25. WSU was 8-2 in nonconference last year, 4-18 in the Pac-12. The Cougars went 12-1 prior to posting a 6-12 conference mark in 2009, the school’s last trip to the NCAA tournament.

“The Pac-12 is so incredibly tough we know that the road ahead of us is an uphill climb,” second-year coach Jen Greeny said. “To have the preseason and get some wins and get confidence that’s definitely helping prepare us.

“It’ll be a tough couple weeks as we go on the road (at UW, Arizona State and Arizona) and then we’ll be glad to be back in Bohler (Gym).”

Jaicee Harris has a team-high 180 kills, followed by Rachel Todorovich’s 120. Marcelina Glab has 65 blocks and Ver’Leea Hardaway has 59.

Camryn Irwin is averaging nearly 10.5 assists per set. Glab was selected Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week, the first Cougar to receive a weekly conference honor since 2009. Todorovich is the only senior in WSU’s regular rotation.

WSU leads the Pac-12 in blocks per set (3.28) and opponent hitting percentage (.092).

Gonzaga is 8-5 after winning three of four matches at Arizona State’s Sheraton Invitational. The Bulldogs open WCC play with three road matches, beginning with Santa Clara and No. 16 BYU this week.

“We’ve made some pretty good strides. Having three or four freshmen on the court at any given time, I’m encouraged by the pace of their learning,” coach Dave Gantt said. “I think we’ve done a nice job of recruiting some physicality.”

The WCC boasts three ranked teams, led by No. 14 Pepperdine, which knocked off two ranked foes last week. Gonzaga was 6-5 in nonconference last season, but just 2-14 in the WCC.

Savannah Blinn, a redshirt freshman from Lewiston, has 178 kills and made four straight all-tournament teams.

Cardinals unbeaten

North Idaho College is positioned to take over the top spot in this week’s NJCAA poll after Scenic West Athletic Conference rival No. 5 College of Southern Idaho thumped No. 1 Iowa Western last week.

The second-ranked Cardinals are 12-0, not counting three wins over NAIA foes, heading into tonight’s home match with NAIA power Lewis-Clark State College (7-5), which has won five straight Frontier Conference titles.

Now, the hard part begins. NIC, CSI (15-1) and Salt Lake (15-3) have taken turns at the top of the SWAC in recent years and there’s another challenger, No. 16 Snow, this season. The top two at regionals advance to the national tournament.

“We’ve had a wonderful beginning of the season,” said coach Kandice Gregorak, whose team entertains No. 6 Salt Lake on Thursday and Snow on Saturday. “CSI is really strong and Salt Lake is, too. We need to keep up our serve-receive and defense. They have more power, more height than us, but we’re used to that.”

Eagles fall again

After a strong first set, winless Eastern Washington (0-13, 0-2 Big Sky) stumbled to a 27-25, 25-17, 25-17 loss to Portland State (6-7, 2-0) on Monday in Cheney.

Talia Fermantez had a match-high 13 kills and hit .500 for the Eagles.

Notes

Idaho (3-9, 1-1), which dropped a five-set match to preseason WAC favorite New Mexico State on Saturday, visits San Jose State and Utah State this week. … Whitworth (4-5, 0-2 Northwest Conference) returns home to face Whitman on Wednesday. The Pirates lost road matches to No. 20 Pacific Lutheran and No. 11 Puget Sound last week. … Community Colleges of Spokane (13-4, 1-1 NWAACC East) entertains Wenatchee Valley (6-8, 2-0) Friday.

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