Washington State is facing perhaps the toughest task in college volleyball this season.
The 16th-seeded Cougars take their swing at No. 1 Stanford in the NCAA Tournament Sweet 16 at Maples Pavilion on Friday .
Nearly every stat favors Stanford, which is 30-1 and hasn’t lost since falling in five sets to BYU on Aug. 31. Stanford has four top-five wins. It posted a 20-0 Pac-12 record with 11 wins over ranked opponents, including a pair over WSU.
“That’s very difficult to do,” Cougars coach Jen Greeny said. “They’re a really good team that seems like none of us could test them a whole lot throughout the year. Just the level of talent they get year in, year out. If it’s not getting the No. 1 recruit, it’s getting a top-five recruit, and not just one of them.”
The Cougars understand all the numbers – Stanford owns a 62-4 edge in the series – and the challenge ahead, but they have some talking points of their own.
“I think we know that Stanford is a high, high-level program and probably that the (series) is lopsided, but we don’t really talk about that,” Greeny said. “We did talk about the fact that a lot of these seniors were on the team that beat them in 2016. The last set Stanford loss was against us (on Nov. 16).”
The Cougars are familiar with the opponent, the venue and they’re staying at the same hotel as they do on their annual regular-season trip to the Bay.
WSU (23-9) also has a healthy roster. All-Pac-12 first-teamer Taylor Mims returned about three weeks ago from a lower leg injury suffered against the Cardinal on Oct. 12.
“It’s nice to have everybody healthy,” Greeny said. “We’re playing well, and we played well against Tennessee last weekend (to reach the Sweet 16). The pressure is definitely not on us.”
Greeny said WSU’s chances for an upset probably hinge on serving and serve-receive.
“They’re a very good serving team, so we need to be able to pass well to get our offense going and we need all of our hitters to produce,” she said. “We need to serve them tough and try to get them to be more predictable.”
The WSU-Stanford winner faces the Washington-Penn State winner Saturday in the Elite Eight.