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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Argentina Ung sets up fourth-ranked Cougar volleyball for success

Accolades are about the only thing missing from Argentina Ung’s resume. On Washington State volleyball’s trajectory, that figures to change in the near future.

The senior setter guides one of the nation’s best teams and offenses, packed with accomplished hitters boasting a long list of well-deserved Pac-12 Conference and national honors.

“That’s the thing,” WSU coach Jen Greeny said, “I think (Ung) gets overlooked a lot because of all our hitters and their accolades, but our hitters couldn’t be doing what they’re doing without her. She doesn’t get talked about enough.”

Let the conversation begin. Ung has stepped into the spotlight with the Cougars rising to No. 4 in the AVCA poll, the highest ranking in program history. She’s third in the Pac-12 and 23rd nationally in assists per set (10.56). WSU’s .301 hitting percentage – the school record is .283 in 1996 – is No. 7 nationally.

Ung, who took over at setter last year when the team hit .280, distributes credit much the same way she distributes sets in the Cougars’ potent attack.

“There’s weapons coming from everywhere in our starting lineup,” the native of Sonora, Mexico, said. “It doesn’t matter who I set, they’re going to put it down. It makes my job so much easier.

“It’s amazing to have All-Pac-12 and All-American (teammates) with the experience they have. They’re amazing. It makes us better.”

Ung has shown marked improvement in her second season running the offense. That falls in line with the pattern of her career as she transitioned to setter after playing outside hitter until the age of 15.

She immediately took to the new position and her development was swift. Her dad, who trained with the Mexican national team during his playing career, started a club team in Mexico because there wasn’t anywhere to play for Argentina and younger sister, Grecia. Ung’s parents coached her along the way.

“I felt like I had a better shot in my future career as a setter,” said Ung, whose sister played two years at Lewis-Clark State before transferring to Park University in Missouri this season. “For high-level volleyball, I’m an undersized outside hitter.”

It was a wise decision for the athletic, 6-foot Ung, who was 16 when she began playing on Mexico’s U20 team and 17 when she played in her first tournament with the senior national squad.

“Her father is a coach and a very good one,” said WSU associate head coach Burdette Greeny, Jen’s husband. “He has the knowledge and the right demeanor to be patient with someone. I can’t say enough about her natural talent.

“She has some unbelievable gifts, not just her ability to move and how high she jumps. There’s instinct and her ability to make adjustments. That combo has made her, and she’s still young as a setter. She has a very high ceiling.”

Ung waited her turn at WSU behind setter Hannah Pukis, who transferred to Oregon following the 2021 season. Ung was pressed into duty as an outside hitter and middle blocker in her freshman and sophomore seasons due to teammates’ injuries.

“I was playing outside and middle, so I didn’t get in a lot setting,” Ung said. “That spring (2022) I really put in the work. It was hard because I knew (Pukis) was All-Pac-12 and an All-American, so there was a little bit of pressure. But I had my teammates and coaches and they made me feel comfortable because it’s a big role.”

Burdette Greeny, who has helped the Cougars bring in numerous standout international players, heard about Ung from a contact he made when he recruited Jocelyn Urias, a Tijuana native and middle blocker at WSU from 2015-19. That led to a memorable recruiting trip to Mexico to watch Ung at a U20 tournament.

“I remember a torrential flood in the streets, water halfway up the doors of my car,” he said.

“The water came inside the gym and they had to postpone some of the games,” Ung said. “It was so bad.”

Weather aside, Ung’s performance was really good.

“It didn’t take long to realize she had significant athletic talent,” Burdette said. “What I didn’t know was that she was an outside hitter that had just been converted to a setter. She’s made a meteoric rise through Mexico’s national system. I took some video and sent it back to Jen and Shannon (Hunt, assistant coach).

“I knew what I was seeing and I asked them they thought. They both said, ‘Yes.’ ”

Ung was all but set on the Cougars when she competed at the U20 World Championships in Egypt with Burdette watching in the stands. She visited WSU a few weeks later – Urias was her host on her recruiting trip – and committed.

“The fact that he came all the way to Mexico and all the way to Egypt, that just told me they were really interested,” said Ung, who has played with Urias on Mexico’s national team.

It’s another big week for the Cougars, who entertain California at 7 p.m. Friday and No. 3 Stanford at noon Sunday in Bohler Gym. WSU claimed its third top-10 win of the season last weekend against No. 6 Oregon to improve to 4-0 in conference, joining Stanford and USC at the top of the standings.

“Every year we’re top 25, top 20,” said Ung, who is planning on returning next year for an additional COVID season of eligibility. “I knew we had potential, but I didn’t know we’d reach that potential this soon. I’m very happy everything is coming together.”