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Cougs take five after 11-0 start

The Washington State University volleyball team has a well-deserved – and well-timed – break after going through the preconference season with an 11-0 record.

The Cougars, who swept Gonzaga in three games Tuesday, will take a few days off before beginning preparations for their Pac-10 opener at Oregon State on Sept. 25, followed by a date with No. 12 Oregon two days later.

WSU has seven three-game sweeps and has dropped a total of five games in 11 matches. Two of those came in a five-game battle with Idaho.

“I told the team in the locker room (after the GU match Tuesday) that we are the preseason Pac-10 champs, if you look at the standings,” second-year head coach Andrew Palileo said, laughing. “So, obviously, they loved that. I told them we couldn’t have asked for a better start to our season and it put us in position for the end of the season as well as for the Pac-10 season.

“But that also puts up the red flag that WSU is going to be a team our opponents have to prepare for, and now we have to respond to that special preparation and hopefully we can continue to do our work.”

WSU received 13 votes in the latest AVCA Top 25 poll. The Cougars haven’t cracked the rankings since the 2003 preseason poll. Seven Pac-10 teams are ranked, with unbeaten Washington leading the way at No. 3.

Eagles come home

Defending Big Sky regular-season champion Eastern Washington stages its home and conference opener when Montana visits Friday, followed by Montana State on Saturday.

“The road gets a little weary after a while,” EWU coach Miles Kydd said. “Obviously it’s nice to get home.”

Kydd wasn’t sure if much could be gleaned from the performance of Big Sky teams, but he noted that “our teams are getting better results against other conferences, so that bodes well for the level of play in the Big Sky.”

Pirates open NWC

Technically, Whitworth (4-7) has the worst winning percentage (.364) of the nine Northwest Conference schools, but the Pirates have reason for optimism. Of their 11 matches, they’ve have faced two ranked NAIA teams and four ranked NCAA Division III teams. Whitworth knocked off No. 6 La Verne and lost in five games to No. 16 Trinity at a tournament last weekend in California.

“At times we were scary good,” head coach Steve Rupe said. “I don’t think any team in the conference has set themselves apart.”

The Pirates open NWC play at home against Linfield on Friday and Willamette on Saturday.

Pulling rank

This weekend No. 3-ranked North Idaho College will face No. 1 College of Southern Idaho, No. 2 Blinn, No. 6 Salt Lake and No. 17 Frank Phillips at a tournament hosted by CSI. In other words, it’s business as usual.

“It’s one of those where you like the competition and you get to see if you have it or not,” Cardinals coach Chris Kosty said of the team’s schedule. “The drawback is it could bite you in the butt.”

At an earlier tournament, NIC beat Salt Lake, which beat CSI, which beat NIC. At another tournament, NIC beat three teams ranked in the top 5. Last week, CSI vaulted from No. 8 to No. 1 by knocking off defending national champion Blinn.

“The big joke we have with CSI and Salt Lake is we’re more worried about making it to nationals than at nationals,” Kosty said. “It feels like the Pac-10 in some ways.”

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