The Times They Are A-Changin'
Oct. 1, 2001
There is a fresh and energized feeling around Washington's volleyball program this fall. After three years of solid effort, the 14 women who make up the 2001 volleyball roster are ready to confirm they belong at the top of the Pac-10 conference. For Britni Churnside, one of three seniors on the squad, it is a necessity that this point is proven.
'Everybody loves it right now and we are learning so much every day,' says the 5-foot-9 setter out of Eugene, Ore. 'It is very exciting because as a team, we needed a new perspective and a new outlook. The coaching change is giving us a chance to start over and have a new shot.'
After 10 seasons as head coach, Bill Neville retired this past summer and passed the buck to Jim McLaughlin, who was coming off a successful four-year tenure at Kansas State, and 11 years overall of coaching experience.
'I believe that we can have a top-10 team at the University of Washington,' said McLaughlin upon his arrival. 'We have the resources, the facilities and the academic reputation. We just have to put the things in place that need to be in place to develop a volleyball team.'
Among the new ideas that McLaughlin will be implementing this season is a one-setter system, as compared to previous years that included two setters - Churnside and fellow teammate Gretchen Maurer. The fight for starting positions is a welcome addition to this year's practices, adding needed energy and somewhat friendly rivalry.
'Competition is great because it makes me get better and makes her get better,' says Churnside. 'That is the ultimate goal, that we have the best player out there, not necessarily whomever has been there in the past, but who is playing the best volleyball at that time.'
Competition is something that Churnside has grown quite accustomed to. Along with playing volleyball since seventh grade, she also lettered in softball, swimming, tennis and track at Sheldon High School.
'I played every sport. It wasn't that I really chose volleyball, it kind of chose me,' Churnside explains. 'All of a sudden there were more and more things that I was doing that related to it. I liked it and it was very challenging. It was the hardest for me and I put a lot of hours into the sport that way.'
As if athletics didn't take up enough time, Churnside also perfected her language skills, earning high honors on the International Spanish Exam three times, and will graduate this spring with a degree in Spanish and business.
'Ever since I was in the first grade I went to Spanish Immersion school, where half of my day was in Spanish and the other half was in English,' remembers Churnside. 'Our teachers were from places like Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and other Hispanic countries, so now I am fluent in the language.'
Churnside also hopes to study abroad in Spain this coming winter quarter, with a possibility of playing the sport professionally overseas.
'I am thinking about playing in Spain for a while. I know a lot of people who have done it and say that it was an incredible experience. If you get that kind of opportunity, it is hard to pass it up.'
For now though, her sights remain on her current situation - guiding a young team back into conference and national contention. The camaraderie that has been established over Churnside's past three years are irreplaceable, and a bright spot that will be missed when her senior season comes to a conclusion.
'I am really going to miss this team,' says Churnside. 'I'm starting to realize that they are some pretty cool girls and I enjoy hanging out with them a lot. When it is all over I know that I am going to miss being with them on and off the court.'
Things have changed for the University of Washington volleyball team, but the competitive drive and determination remains the same.
'I just want to keep getting better and contribute to the team in any way that I can,' Churnside says. 'Whatever my role is, I want to fulfill it the best that I can.'The Times