Pacific-10 Conference teams have won the last four NCAA volleyball championships, and last season three of them landed in the Final Four.
So when Washington State University coach Brian Heffernan gushes about his opponent from Friday night, it shouldn’t be taken lightly.
“That’s as good a team as I’ve seen in college volleyball,” Heffernan said after his Cougars lost to No. 2 Washington 30-12, 30-18, 30-18 in Pullman. “They are an excellent offensive team, obviously. But most impressive for me is their ability to counterattack.”
The Huskies spent much of the 73-minute match before 1,478 at Bohler Gym turning defense into offense faster than WSU had previously thought possible, leaving the Cougars at a disadvantage all night.
“They dig a ball and then it’s right back on top of us very, very quickly,” Heffernan said. “We had a lot of defenders falling back on their heels because we’ve just never seen that pace. Not just the speed they’re hitting it at, but the timing of it, the tempo of it.”
In his second year as head coach at WSU, Heffernan had his team playing better. The Cougars won more matches (seven) before playing their first Pac-10 match than they had in all of last season (five). But in that conference opener, WSU ran into a squad that Heffernan thinks is the best in the country.
The Cougars (7-5, 0-1) took early leads in the first two games against their archrivals, but Washington (10-0, 1-0) successfully found an extra gear WSU could not match each time. In the first game the Huskies tallied 19 kills without a single error and on the match they recorded a hitting percentage of .368.
The Cougars, on the other hand, set a school record – and not the good kind – with a hitting percentage of minus-.075, breaking a previous record of minus-.030 set two years ago against an eventual national champion, USC.
“That’s the best team I’ve ever played in all my life,” WSU junior Jen Barcus said of Washington. “Even the USC team of two years ago, I thought we stood a better chance against them than we did tonight.”
In 2004, WSU gave the Huskies one of their biggest scares on the way to the Final Four. After dropping the first two games, the Cougars stormed back to force a fifth game, losing it 15-9.
But falling behind two games to none again this year didn’t stir any similar comeback effort.
The Huskies coolly and efficiently ended the proceedings in the third game by claiming a quick 5-0 lead and coasting from there.
“The challenge now is to use this as a lesson for our team. We’re young or lack maturity in so many ways,” Heffernan said. “We’re not going to see Washington every night. We’re going to see teams that we’re going to have more of an opportunity to compete against down the road. So we need to be ready for those teams.”
•Natalie Danielson (CC Spokane) had 14 kills and Bekah Hornor (Mead) had 10 kills, 37 assists and eight digs as Whitworth (7-2, 3-0) swept No. 8 Linfield (10-1, 2-1) in Northwest Conference play at the Whitworth Fieldhouse.
Lamar Kumangai-McGee (North Central) put in a free kick from Garga Caserta in the 87th minute to lead North Idaho to a 2-1 victory over Colorado Mountain in Scenic West Athletic Conference action in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Mike Vredenberg also had a goal for the Cardinals (7-0-3, 3-0-1), scoring in the 52nd minute.
•Tommy Krizanovic scored a pair of goals, including the game winner in the 75th minute, as Jacksonville defeated Gonzaga 3-2 on the first day of the Nike Gonzaga Soccer Classic at Martin Field.
George Josten scored both goals for the Bulldogs (2-3-1), who outshot the Dolphins 26-10.
Senior defender/midfielder Robert Anderson, who assisted on Josten’s first goal, suffered a broken leg in the second half and is out for the season.
North Idaho unloaded 25 shots on goal against Colorado Mountain en route to a 12-0 victory in SWAC action in Glenwood Springs, Colo.
Katie Douglas scored a hat trick, and Meghan Kahnle and Kasey Knowles each scored twice for the Cardinals (6-3, 4-2).
•Gonzaga midfielder Beth Drollinger placed a 25-yard shot into the upper-left corner of the net in the 38th minute as Gonzaga defeated No. 20 Oregon State 2-0 at Corvallis, Ore., the Bulldogs’ first victory over the Beavers (6-2) in 12 attempts.
Nanda McCormick added an insurance goal for Gonzaga (5-2-1) on a breakaway in the 84th minute.
•Carmen Anderson scored off a corner kick in the second minute, but Washington State (5-2-1) couldn’t muster any other offense in the next 108 as the Cougars tied Cal Poly at 1 at San Luis Obispo, Calif.
Becky Clark evened the match for the Mustangs (6-0-3) with a header in the 59th minute.
The Gonzaga women have accepted a berth to the sixth annual Paradise Jam tournament, which will be held Nov. 24-26 at St. Thomas, Virgin Islands.
The Bulldogs (28-4 in 2004-05) will face Maryland in the first round of the four-team, round-robin St. John division, which includes 2005 NCAA finalist Michigan State and Tennessee.
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