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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883
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Young Zags making strides

It has taken longer than he expected, but Kip Yoshimura is convinced his Gonzaga University volleyball program is finally headed back in the right direction.

In his first three years as the head coach at GU, Yoshimura went 4-24, 4-26 and 4-25. But this fall, his young Bulldogs (6-4) have already won two more matches than they did in any of the three previous seasons.

And Yoshimura seems confident his young Zags, who entertain non-conference rival Washington State in their home opener tonight at 7 in Martin Centre, can continue to build on the early season momentum they have created.

“We’re definitely on the right track,” Yoshimura said Monday. “We’re learning how to win, and we’re also having fun. We have that great combo going right now, and of the four matches we’ve dropped, our players really and truly believe we should have won them all – which is a great attitude to have.”

Despite having two freshmen and three sophomores in his starting lineup, Yoshimura likes the maturity of this year’s team. And he credits his senior co-captains, Lacey Bell and Jessica Herrera, with teaching his younger players what it takes to be successful.

“They’re probably the best captains we’ve had since I’ve been here,” he said. “They’ve really taken their leadership responsibilities to heart.”

As for his team’s apparent turnaround, Yoshimura added, “We’re on track, yes, but we’re a year behind where I thought we would be.

“As coaches, we think we can sometimes turn everything around in a year or two, and that’s usually not the case. It takes a lot of patience.”

And Yoshimura admits there will probably be some difficult times ahead – quite possibly in tonight’s match against WSU.

“Our tournament schedule has been so heavy this year that we really haven’t had time to break down what Washington State does,” he said. “I know we played them last year and they took care of us pretty easily (30-19, 30-25, 30-28 in Pullman). But this year’s team really seems to be coming together, and I think we’re ready for the challenge.”

Puttin’ on the hurt

Idaho’s Meghan Brown went down with an injury during last weekend’s Baden Cougar Challenge at Washington State University, but not before putting some hurt on the rest of the teams in the field.

Brown, a senior outside hitter, suffered an ankle injury during the Vandals’ three-game sweep of host WSU on Saturday – a win that gave them the Challenge title, but still managed to be named the most valuable player of the tournament.

“She had an awesome weekend,” UI coach Debbie Buchanan said of Brown, who recorded 38 kills in the three matches she played, “and for her to get MVP, although she didn’t play the last few games, was great.”

More importantly, Brown’s ankle injury does not seem serious.

“In think Meghan will be back pretty quick,” said Buchanan, whose Vandals (7-2) play in a tournament at the University of Utah this weekend. “She was a huge part of us winning this (WSU) tournament and, hopefully, we get her back (this) weekend.”

NIC event a first

North Idaho College will host the inaugural Best Western Peppertree Invitational this weekend at Sports USA Complex in Spokane Valley.

The seven-team event, which kicks off Friday, will also include Community Colleges of Spokane.

NIC coach Bret Taylor said organizing the event was a massive undertaking.

“But it’s good for volleyball in our area,” he added. “It gives some our of local four-year schools a chance to come out and look at what the two-year schools have to offer. I’m pretty excited about it.”

NIC (12-3) comes in fresh off its championship run in last weekend’s Inland Northwest Communications Invitational, which was hosted by CCS at Spokane Falls Community College. CCS is 9-3.

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