Oct. 30, 2001
Senior setter Kali Surplus became accustomed to success on the volleyball court after leading Salt Lake Community College to a 45-4 record and being named NJCAA All-American in 1999.
That's what made Washington State's 1-6 start in Pac-10 play last year, including frustrating losses on the road to Stanford and California, all the more difficult for the junior college transfer from Gresham, Ore.
'That was our lowest point. We got together and decided that our practices needed to change,' Surplus said. 'We needed to change the intensity and we got a little more competitive with each other, which was hard because we are such close friends. That has helped a lot.'
The change in intensity spurred the Cougars to an 8-3 record down the stretch in conference play, including wins over 7th ranked UCLA and 17th ranked Stanford, and earned them an invitation to the NCAA Tournament. Surplus was named All-Pac-10 honorable mention after averaging 14.12 assists per game.
Though Washington State was knocked out in the second round by 8th ranked Penn State, the thought of all six starters and nine total letterwinners returning in 2001 kept Cougar volleyball coach Cindy Fredrick smiling through the winter months in Pullman.
But during the spring, that smile gave way to a look of concern after Surplus was injured in a spring scrimmage.
'I blocked Zanda (Bautre), and when the ball hit my arm, it hyper-extended a little and I was like, 'Gosh, I think I just broke my arm,'' Surplus said. 'But I just kept playing through practice and pretty soon my fingers starting going numb. I went to see the trainer and they said, 'Well, that's probably not normal.''
Team physician Ed Tingstad discovered that an existing bone chip in her right elbow had popped out of place. Surplus went under the knife in April to take the nerves off the bone, putting a potentially dream season in jeopardy.
'Kali's injury was a big scare for us,' said Fredrick, who is entering her 13th season at the helm of the Cougar volleyball program. 'We went from thinking she could be out for a year to just resting it for six to eight weeks.'
After the successful surgery and rehabilitation, plans are back on track for a repeat run to the NCAA Tournament for Surplus and company.
'I don't think we are satisfied with what we did last year,' Surplus said. 'I know that we have very high hopes for this year. We should since we only lost one player. We should go much further this time, maybe into the third round or the fourth. We like those banners.'
The quest to put an eighth NCAA Tournament banner on the walls of the venerable Bohler Gym should be greatly enhanced by one of the nation's best home court advantages. Surplus and the Cougars went 10-3 at home last season, and under Fredrick, WSU has annually been among the top 20 in attendance.
'There is something about the gym,' Surplus, who had a career-high 11 kills against Washington last October, said. 'You just feel okay. You get excited, but you just feel comfortable and calm. Maybe it is because they (the fans) are so close and it is kind of a smaller gym. They really are like the seventh player. It's so true. We look forward to home games. We love the crowd.'
The seventh man won't be the only thing helping to satisfy Surplus' winning drive. The communication major will be setting the table for a lethal group of hitters headlined by fellow All-Pac-10 honoree, and off-season surgical patient, LaToya Harris. Senior Melissa Boyle, juniors Chelsie Schafer, Holly Harris, Adrian Hankoff, and Kortney Jamtaas, and sophomore Bautre join the mix to give Surplus a diverse choice of weapons.
'They are all different. If you set LaToya (Harris), you know it's going to be a boom-boom hit,' the 6-foot-0 Surplus said. 'But at the same time I love see Melissa's and Holly's reaction after they get a good kill. It's kind of funny.'
Rally scoring, which has been instituted for the 2001 season, may bode well for the Cougars. It seems that every time Surplus touches the ball, the result is the same, point Cougars.