On any given Sunday is a phrase generally used to describe parity in the NFL, but it certainly applied to Sunday’s Washington State-USC volleyball match.
It looked grim for the Cougars, trailing 14-9 in the fifth set at Bohler Gym. Some background: WSU won its first 13 matches this season, but the Pac-12 is always loaded and the Cougars had dropped nine of their last 10 matches, including a five-setter to UCLA on Friday.
WSU rallied from a 2-0 deficit by taking the third and fourth sets from USC, but the fourth-ranked Trojans took control in the fifth set. The Cougars staved off five match points to knot the score at 14. USC had three more match points, but couldn’t put the Cougars away. WSU completed a remarkable comeback, winning 21-19.
“We’ve been talking to our team to keep fighting … to never give up and work hard every single day in practice,” coach Jen Greeny said. “You can point to this kind of win and say, ‘This is why we do it.’ ”
Kyra Holt, named the conference Freshman of the Week for the third time this season, had four kills in the latter stages of the fifth set. Freshman Emmy Allen’s kill and sophomore Kate Sommer’s back-to-back aces pulled WSU within 14-13 before Holt’s kill evened the score. Tied at 19, USC was called for a lift and a Trojan spike sailed just wide.
“In my career I had not even taken a set off USC,” senior middle blocker Marcelina Glab said. “To beat a top team, we know we can compete with the next few opponents and we still have a shot at the NCAA tournament.”
The Cougars (17-12, 4-12 Pac-12) knocked off No. 16 Arizona State last month in Pullman. Prior to that, WSU hadn’t defeated a ranked opponent since upsetting No. 4 Washington in 2009. Sunday’s win guaranteed WSU’s first winning season since 2009.
“It does seem we’ve gone to so many five-setters and we’ve lost,” Greeny said. “That’s tough, especially for a young group like this to get kind of discouraged so I’m really happy for them.”
Cardinals off to nationals
North Idaho College is making its fourth straight trip to the NJCAA tournament, hoping to improve on ninth- and eighth-place finishes the last two years. Ninth-seeded NIC faces No. 8 Arizona Western (19-4) at noon (PST) Thursday at the Casper (Wyo.) Events Center.
The NIC-Arizona Western winner will face the winner of No. 1 Blinn and No. 16 Gadsden State. NIC lost to Blinn in five sets in early September.
“We’ve played most of the top teams (four of the top six seeds). The rest of them we’re not sure what to expect,” said Cardinals coach Miles Kydd, who found one tape of Arizona Western at njcaatv.com. “It’s the same thing for us: At least three of our hitters, whether it’s a middle and two outsides or whatever combination, have to be going at the same time.”
• Community Colleges of Spokane (31-14), which finished second in the East Division, takes on Lower Columbia (13-22) in the opening round Thursday in the NWAACC tournament in Gresham, Ore.
Former NIC standout Yang Yang is a current Rocky Mountain standout. The junior middle blocker was named first-team All-Frontier Conference and Newcomer of the Year. … Second-seeded Rocky Mountain defeated No. 1 Montana State-Northern to win the Frontier Conference tournament championship. … MSU-Northern senior setter Joni Nagi (Riverside High, Community Colleges of Spokane) was selected to the first team. Carroll College’s Jonni Dorr (Mead) made the All-Freshman team. … Gonzaga (11-14, 7-9) entertains Saint Mary’s on Thursday at 9 p.m., the late start due to the WSU-GU basketball game at 6. GU closes the season against Pacific at noon Saturday. … Idaho (17-10, 10-5), which closes the regular season against Grand Canyon on Thursday, will be the third or fourth seed in the WAC tournament. … Eastern Washington (9-20, 6-12) finishes the season on the road against Idaho State and Weber State.