Cougar Volleyball: The Pride of Bohler
July 2, 2002
The 2002 season for the Washington State volleyball team will be one with great expectations for success.
Those expectations are fueled by the return of five seniors and a junior who have been starters most of their careers and seen two seasons with NCAA Championships tournament play. Add a solid class of freshmen, mix in outstanding coaching and a working trip to Europe, and the expectations are exhilarating.
'I can't quite grasp that they are seniors,' Cindy Fredrick, the WSU head coach in her 14th season, said. 'They have developed and grown up tremendously in the past three years, partly because they were thrown right in the fire. They have matured tremendously in the last three years and have a much better competitive spirit now than they've ever had. They have learned to work hard and fight for things. I think that will be a big difference this fall. That competitive spirit is exciting to see.'
The 16-member Cougar volleyball squad will spend the pre-season August practice days in 2002 with a two-week trip to Europe. Washington State will take on some of the finest women's club teams across the Atlantic Ocean in a series of exhibition matches.
'I'm absolutely, positively thrilled about our trip to Europe,' Fredrick said. 'We have worked very hard to raise the money for this and we've had great support from our boosters. It means getting some great competition under our belts. We want to make it a really fun trip. This is a memory-maker for the whole team. It is a tremendous opportunity for bonding the freshmen with the upper classmen and having the chance to play together.'
The Cougar veterans are led by two-time All-Pac-10 player LaToya Harris. A deceptive 5-7, the high-flying left-handed Harris became the eighth player in WSU history to reach 1,000 kills in a career and her three-year total of 1,078 kills is fourth on the Cougars' all-time list. She also ranks fifth in both service aces (103) and digs (873) in all-time school standings and in 2001 conference standings was fifth in serves and ninth in digs.
Adrian Hankoff, an honorable mention All-Pac-10 performer last year, had a terrific junior season, with 3.21 kills per game, second only to LaToya Harris' 3.59 kpg. Hankoff's huge jump serve led the team in aces with 48, and was the second most effective serve in the Pac-10.
Holly Harris has placed her name in the WSU record book, starting her senior season eighth in career standings for solo blocks (41), block assists (234), and total blocks (275). Not to be thought of as only a 'stopper,' the 6-2 Harris also set the school match record for hitting percentage last season with 10 kills on 11 attacks and no errors for a .909 hitting percentage. She will finish her volleyball career at WSU this year but will join the Cougar basketball team in December.
For the third straight year, Chelsie Schafer was thrown into the setter's job during spring practices, leaving her hitting on hold until fall but giving the Cougars one of their best spring seasons. Her setting prowess gives WSU the possibility of running a 6-2 offense. Schafer's take charge attitude and strong presence at the net make her a valuable asset regardless of what position she plays.
With the introduction of the libero (LEE-bah-ro - A player who can be substituted into a game freely in the back row for defensive purposes, such as digging and passing. Required to wear a striking and different color jersey, the libero is prohibited from serving or attacking the ball.), Kortney Jamtaas will have an exciting senior season. At 5-7, Jamtaas will shine in this new position as her passing and defensive skills take on added importance. She tallied 2.99 digs per game last season which was 10th in Pac-10 standings.
'This has been Kortney's dream and it is finally happening,' Fredrick said. 'When you're on the court all the time, you know you can make a huge difference. It's a fantastic position to be in. I will miss Kortney's off-speed kills from the back row and that is where I might make some changes and have her sub in for someone else. The rule says you can make the change by game.'
Zanda Bautre, a junior outside hitter, had an outstanding spring season and will be a factor in every game. She has the highest hitting percentage from 2001 among the returning players and is third in digs. Bautre picks up the pace of the game and delivers a powerful offensive punch.
'This group of upperclassmen are an extremely close-knit group which in some ways works to our advantage and in some ways it works against us,' Fredrick said. 'Because they are such good friends, they are a little hesitant to jump on each others' case when they need to except for Chelsie. Chelsie is never hesitant to push somebody and to ask a little more of someone, and that's a good thing. I like the chemistry with them and I like the way they work together.'
Sophomore middle hitter Victoria Prince showed marked improvement in her blocking and demonstrated her whip-like arm swing. Playing with a lot of confidence is her next goal to conquer. Fredrick describes Prince as having all the tools to be a great player.
Alison Billingsley, a 5-3 sophomore defensive specialist will also see time at libero, a position Fredrick embraces as an opportunity for smaller women in Division I to get into the game and make a difference.
Eight freshman will be trying to break into the Cougar lineup this season but one is already slotted into the starting six. Brenn Larson (5-11, Westlake, Calif.) arrives to take over the setting reigns from the graduated Kali Surplus (two-time All-Pac-10 honorable mention) and will have plenty of experience with the Cougars after the Europe tour.
'Brenn is possibly one of the best setters we have ever brought in,' Fredrick said. 'She is just an incredible athletic talent. Mentally and physically she is extremely strong.'
At 6-1, Jen Barcus (Nine Mile Falls, Wash.) is expected to be very willing to push both Holly Harris and Prince for the middle spot. The long and lean Barcus had many offers to play Division I basketball and her competitive nature may find her substantial playing time as she looks less like a freshman and more like a vet.
Another outstanding two-sport athlete who has chosen to play collegiate volleyball is Kristen Carlson, a 6-2, left-handed outside hitter from Purcellville, Va. Carlson may redshirt her freshman year at WSU but has played tournament volleyball so well this summer, the decision won't be made until after fall practice sessions are complete.
Pullman may be the western suburb of Riga, Latvia, as freshman Ance Auzina (on-saw ow-ZEEN-ah) joins fellow Latvian Zanda Bautre on the Cougar roster. A 6-1, left-handed right side/left side hitter, Auzina's international playing experience may give her an edge in court time this fall.
'Ance will be pushing everybody for a position,' Fredrick said. 'She'll be coming in as a freshman with more experience than a lot of players have as juniors. She'll be right up there pushing for a spot.'
LaQue Branch, a 5-8 outside hitter from Yakima, Wash., brings a lot of athletic ability that will be an asset to the Cougar team after development. Coach Fredrick is particularly happy with her court demeanor - calm and controlled.
Also joining the Cougar team this season will be invited walk-on players Stephanie Baker (6-0, right side/setter, Pasco, Wash.), Melanie Greene (6-0, outside hitter, Nampa, Idaho), and Megan Camp (5-3, libero/defensive specialist, Spokane, Wash.). Baker brings the height and ability important in a back-up setter. Greene and Camp are thoroughbred Cougars as both sets of parents attended WSU. Greene's father, Ken, was a defensive back on the WSU football team in 1974-76, who went on to play in the NFL. Camp's father, Chris, was a southpaw pitcher for the highly successful Cougar baseball team (1974-77).
Fredrick and her staff, assistant coaches Dr. Mashallah Farokmanesh (14th year) and Jen Greeny (third year), are not committed to any starting lineup but are anticipating some great battles for playing time.
'We have a lot of great possibilities,' Fredrick said. 'I think it is just a real exciting group. LaToya and Chelsie on the right side. We have Brenn coming in who is a great setter and a great hitter too. Holly in the middle and Zanda and Adrian outside but Chelsie and LaToya can play outside too. We have a lot of different scenarios we can look at and that's why I don't want anything carved in stone right now. I want to be able to change things up and see how things come out this fall. I'm very open to putting my best six (of the week) on the court.'
The 2002 competitive schedule finds Washington State hosting one of the toughest Cougar Challenge tournament in recent years as NCAA participants BYU and Nevada join Gonzaga to play in Pullman Labor Day weekend. Then its north to Fairbanks, Alaska, for the Nanook Classic followed by a trip to San Francisco for the Golden Gate Classic.
While Fredrick is excited about the Cougars' non-conference schedule this year, when it comes to the conference she says, 'The Pac-10 will be the same old, cutthroat, brutal volleyball conference.'
How to improve on the 2001 squad? Fredrick and the team determined speed was the answer and spent last spring improving skills all the way down to the basic fundamentals but concentrating on building quickness, agility and faster transitioning.
'The kids will tell you they are a lot quicker now than they were last fall,' Fredrick said. 'They were athletic and now they are athletically quick, which is what we needed. You can't be slow and play in this conference.'
The experience factor is a worthy intangible the Cougs should capitalize on this season.
'The players don't worry as much about things like getting behind now,' Fredrick said. 'They are more relaxed and I think that comes from feeling confident and being able to understand you are going to make some mistakes but it is the recovery from those mistakes that matters, not the mistakes themselves. They learned that a lot this spring and it showed in the way they played.'