Rally 'Round Cougar Volleyball For Fast-paced Action

Aug. 10, 2001

Cougar volleyball is ready and roaring to go in 2001. Ready to rack up another winning season. Ready for a tough non-conference schedule. Ready for the change to rally scoring where sideouts are a thing of the past and every play ends in a point. Roaring to advance further in the NCAA Championship Tournament.

After the triumphant return to Bohler Gym and the NCAA Championship Tournament in 2000, the core of the Washington State volleyball team returns. Six starters, all sophomores and juniors last year, and a total of nine letter-winners return from a squad that attained a 19-10 overall record, and finished 9-9 and tied for fifth in the Pacific-10 Conference last year.

Head Coach Cindy Fredrick begins her 13th season at Washington State this fall. Her record of 228 wins and 152 losses at WSU gives her more wins than any previous Cougar volleyball coach and a winning percentage of .600, tops among current coaches at WSU. Fredrick's 106-110 Pac-10 win-loss record is third-best among current conference coaches. Her Cougar teams have gone to the NCAA Championship Tournament seven times in the last ten years.

'We've been a very young team for the past couple of years,' Fredrick said. 'This year, not only do we have a lot of returning players but a good return of team chemistry. I think those two things will be key for us and should be a great advantage.'

Fredrick's outlook for the 2001 season is optimistic, but cautiously so. A few surgeries hit the team unexpectedly last spring but with expected full rehabilitations prior to August practice sessions.

'I'm grateful to Dr. Ed Tingstad, WSU's team physician, and our athletic trainer, Jeannette Muir, who have been as involved with our team this spring almost as much as I have,' Fredrick said.

Leading the WSU team is junior LaToya Harris, an All-Pac-10 first team selection last year. Harris' 4.13 kills per game was fifth-best in the Pac-10 while her 3.14 digs per game was seventh-best among conference players. The 5-foot-7 inches tall right side/left side hitter with a vertical jump of 31 inches, also excelled at the service line, nailing 44 aces, second best in conference. Harris had surgery on her right knee last winter yet participated in spring practice and tournaments with some limitations on her jumping.

'It gave us a big scare when LaToya had to have knee surgery,' Fredrick said. 'When you look at someone who is 5-7, her shining glory is that jump and ability to play above the net. Without LaToya we're a good team, but with LaToya, we are a very good team. She brings that bar up a little bit for everybody and brings the excitement level up too.'

Cougar senior setter, Kali Surplus, also saw the surgeon's knife, after earning All-Pac-10 honorable mention and reaching 13.05 assists per game, fourth best in the league last year. During spring practice, Surplus worked hard on establishing timing patterns with the middle hitters. It was mid-spring when she went to block a ball and hyper-extended her right elbow, popping an existing bone chip into the wrong place.

'Kali's injury was perhaps an even bigger scare for us because we went from thinking she could be out for a year to just resting it for six to eight weeks,' Fredrick said. 'Dr. Tingstad went in and very meticulously took the nerves off the bone. The surgery went very well and she's going through the rehab and should be back by the first part of August ready to go.'

In 2000, WSU finished the season ranked 11th nationally in both team kills per game and assists. Harris and Surplus accounted for a lot of those numbers.

Chelsie Schafer, another Cougar All-Pac-10 honorable mention selection in 2000, ended spring practice with her left hand pinkie finger in a splint. Schafer, a left and right side hitter, contributed 3.35 kills per game in addition to her 2.97 digs per game and 0.31 service aces per game, both ninth best in Pac-10. Once Surplus added a sling to her attire, Schafer stepped in as the WSU setter, a position she hadn't planned to play as a starter.

'I really admire Chelsie for stepping in, and the team,' Fredrick said. 'To think that your starting setter is out was an absolutely terrifying thought except the team had a great deal of confidence in Chelsie. Chelsie filled a role the team needed, that's what we ask our kids to do.'

'It was tough for Chelsie because she missed hitting,' Fredrick said. 'Chelsie is all about power and she was beginning to learn to have shots. As soon as she started to get those down, she had to become the setter.'

One of the Cougars who both Schafer and Surplus successfully set the ball to was Zanda Bautre, a Pac-10 All-Freshman first team selection last year. Bautre, recruited from her native country of Latvia via e-mail and just two phone calls, had a positive impact on the WSU team. Averaging 2.60 kills per game and 2.13 digs per game last fall, Bautre had an incredible spring season.

'If you asked the coaches, Zanda was the person they saw the greatest improvement in,' Fredrick said. 'She has that ability to focus on what she needs to learn or change. Zanda can play right and left side, she can serve a tough floater or switch to a jump serve. Zanda can do almost whatever we ask.'

'There's a lot of resiliency and flexibility on this team and that's a real positive,' Fredrick said.

In the middle, WSU returns junior Holly Harris and senior Melissa Boyle. Harris' 1.06 blocks per game average was eighth best in the Pac-10. Boyle, who was moved from outside hitter to the middle 16 matches into the season, tallied 1.11 blocks per game in Pac-10 matches.

'I wish Melissa would have been trained as a middle hitter her entire career. She is just a natural blocker,' Fredrick said. 'Holly's improvement running the slides has been good. Holly and Melissa are both very good blockers with good reaches who are becoming much more aggressive and want to be set more. The connection between them and Kali really improved this spring and it was also good with Chelsie. Middle hitters have to be able to adjust and they learned that this spring. They can't get frazzled by things thrown at them, the little twists. You just have to go with the flow. We saw a lot of good connections, a lot of good hits coming from different sets. They were just learning to run quick quicks with Kali and that's crucial for them. We need to be able to do that in the fall as it gives us a lot of diversity.'

Defensive specialists Kortney Jamtaas (junior) and Kerry Lewis (senior) are on a mission according to Fredrick. Their decision to get playing time, subbing in for middle hitters Harris and Boyle in the back row, has not been met with full surrender by the middles.

'Holly's not giving that spot up easily and Kerry is fighting for it,' Fredrick said. 'That's a good battle to have. We concentrated on improving the team's passing and charted that skill every day in spring practice and used the charts to determine playing time in the tournaments. Kortney has to take over control of the back row. She has to be the one who runs the back row and everybody should be doing what she tells them to do. It's not a natural thing for anybody on this team to really tell anybody else what to do, but sometimes they need to.'

Outside hitter Adrian Hankoff, `played awesome volleyball this spring,' according to Fredrick. Hankoff, a junior, spent the past year and a half fine-tuning her jump serve which proved to be both very good and consistent during spring ball.

'Adrian's hitting has been phenomenal, getting up and over the top of people,' Fredrick said. 'She's learned to off-speed, hammer the line, and hit cross-court so she has a little basket full of shots now. She has improved her passing consistency by about 60 percent. It's just amazing. She's going to be an impact player.'

Redshirt Brittney Diaz has a ways to catch up to the Cougars because of the knee surgery from her high school career and continued rehabilitation last fall. Fredrick said the coaching staff has challenged Diaz to step it up and be dedicated to a full recovery.

'Brittney's best trait is her blocking and we need to work on her assertiveness, aggressiveness, and being more of a presence on the court,' Fredrick said. 'She is coming in as a freshman next year. It's all in her hands.'

Four true freshmen join the Cougar squad this fall. Victoria Prince, a 6-0 middle hitter from Kennewick, Wash., and Kristin Purscelley, a 6-3 outside hitter from Springfield, Ore., both have the possibility to push some people for playing time.

'I think V (Victoria) will push in the middle and it will be fun to have four middle hitters,' Fredrick said. 'She has good hops, she's had good training and she's an all around good athlete. She runs a good slide and that's what you want your middles to do. She has long arms and is a good blocker.

'We haven't had anybody who is 6-3 for a long time and Kristin moves well. If you compare her with Wendy Rouse, Kristin has the potential to be better than Wendy, and that's a good compliment. She gives us a bigger block and presents a different defensive look occasionally. I think she's going to be a great addition. It's fun to think about playing a left side hitter who is 6-3 because that doesn't happen very often.'

Kathleen Monda, a 5-11 outside hitter from Woodinville, Wash., and Alison Billingsley, a 5-5 setter/defensive specialist join the Cougars as invited walk-ons after participating at the WSU summer camps.

The WSU team goal in 2000 was to reach the NCAA tournament after not being in there for a couple years. After achieving that goal and then winning the first round match against Tennessee, the Cougars realized they could not only arrive but also be successful.

'We were one of few teams to beat Penn State in a game at their home court so that was kudos for us,' Fredrick said. 'We need to look at one rung of the ladder at a time. Let's have reasonable expectations of ourselves. We made it to the second round now let's make it to the Sweet 16. And then we'll go from there.

'Of course, when you play in the Conference of Champions, you don't take anything for granted, you don't assume anything, you just work your tail off.'

Last year, the Pac-10 sent six teams to the NCAA Tournament and all six advanced to the second round. Additionally, WSU can look forward to a tough non-conference schedule including eighth-ranked Pacific, Kansas State and Arkansas.

'The good thing is, these kids are ready for that,' Fredrick said. 'At some point, you have to jump into the water and we're not jumping in feet first, we're jumping in head first. That's a key for these kids. You might as well go after it right away.'

Rally `round the Cougs - they're ready and roaring to go.

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