Three Recruits Ink With Cougars

Nov. 15, 2004

PULLMAN, Wash. -- One junior college transfer and two high school seniors have signed National Letters of Intent to play volleyball for Washington State University next fall, first-year Head Coach Brian Heffernan announced Monday.

The three Cougar volleyball signees include 6-1 middle blocker Natalia Owens from Lima, Peru, 5-9 middle blocker Brittany Johnson from Phoenix, Arizona, and 5-8 outside hitter Jalen Pendon from Spanaway, Wash.

'Collectively this class immediately increases our athleticism, our volleyball intelligence and our competitiveness,' Heffernan said. 'Each of these athletes has the ability to make an immediate impact for Cougar Volleyball.'

Natalia Owens was a member of the Peruvian National Team before attending Shoreline Community College in Seattle, the past two years. She is a two-year team captain for the Shoreline Dolphins volleyball team which won the Northern Division of the Northwest Athletic Association of Community Colleges in 2003 and finished second this year. Owens averaged 4.29 kills per game and 3.05 digs per game this season.

As a member of the Peruvian National Team, Owens, born Natalia Monteverde, played in the Junior South American Games four times (Venezuela, Bolivia, Argentina and Columbia) and qualified for the World Games in Brazil. She was the team captain for the 1998 Junior Olympics team, held in Russia, and played in the 1999 World Cup in Japan.

Owens is married to Michael Owens and they have a daughter, Andrea (8-30-03). She is scheduled to get her AA degree from Shoreline in June 2005 and will start at WSU in the fall semester.

'It takes only a couple minutes of watching Natalia Owens to recognize that she is a very experienced and skilled volleyball player,' Heffernan said. 'We believe that we are getting so much more than a skilled volleyball player in Natalia. She is extremely mature and takes great pride in helping her teammates succeed. Natalia's offensive skills are very advanced but more importantly, she is passionate about serving, blocking and defending. Her high level volleyball experiences with the Women's National Team of Peru and her maturity as a person will help her make an immediate impact on Cougar Volleyball.'

Brittany Johnson is currently a senior at Washington High in Phoenix and also played on the Arizona Thunder Club Volleyball team. To date, Johnson has accumulated four varsity letters in volleyball, three as a post player in basketball, and two as a high and long jumper in track for the Rams. She was named MVP of the Skyline Region for both the 2004 and 2003 volleyball seasons after earning first team all-region the past three seasons. Johnson was named to the all-state second team as a junior when the Rams advanced to the Arizona state 4A quarter finals last year. This fall the Rams advanced to the state 4A second round. Johnson has also received all-region honors in basketball and has placed fourth in long jump at state meet. In addition to her athletic endeavors, Johnson is a member of the dance team, the National Honor Society and a student government officer. She plans to study computer science at WSU after graduating in the top 2 percent of her class with a 3.97 grade point average.

'Brittany is a tremendous athlete and an accomplished student with a gift for making those around her better,' Heffernan said. 'When you watch her play you immediately recognize her athleticism but you also can't help but notice her presence as a hard worker and as a leader. I have a hunch that nobody will out-work or out-prepare Brittany Johnson. She will help to set new standards for our team both in training and in the classroom. This is just the mindset that is needed for Cougar Volleyball to progress.'

Jalen Pendon is currently a senior at Spanaway Lake High and played varsity volleyball for three seasons for coach Shirley Baker. She was a two-time South Puget Sound League South Division volleyball MVP in addition to being named to the first team all-league three times. The Sentinels placed third at the 2003 state 4A volleyball tournament where Pendon was named to the all-tournament team, and reached fifth place at the 2004 state 4A championships two weeks ago. She was twice selected Volleyball Athlete of the Year by the Tacoma News Tribune and named to the 2003 all-area team by the Seattle PI newspaper. Pendon also played on the Puget Sound Volleyball Club team coached by Jan Kirk and Kelly Kirk. In addition to volleyball, Pendon has lettered two years in track, finishing ninth in the 400m dash at the state meet her sophomore year. In the classroom, Pendon carries a 3.6+ GPA, is an honors society member, received the Tacoma Urban League's 2003 Distiguished Youth Citizenship Award, and is a three-time Elizabeth Wesley Incentive Award Program winner. She plans to pursue a career in physical therapy.

'Every time I watch Jalen I become more impressed with her skill level and her leadership on the court,' Heffernan said. 'Don't be fooled by her calm and humble demeanor. When she puts on the uniform she is there to compete. I love her feisty competitive spirit that comes out when her team needs it most. We will count on her to make an immediate impact as a hitter but she will also improve our ball control and floor defense. Jalen is also a tremendous student. We will count on her to raise the standards of performance both on the court and in the classroom for our program.'

Johnson and Pendon are planning to graduate from their respective high schools next month and plan to enroll and begin classes at WSU in January 2005.

'Brittany and Jalen are making a statement about their commitment to helping rebuild Cougar Volleyball,' Heffernan said. 'This opportunity will allow them to get a strong start in the classroom, improve their strength and conditioning and become immersed in their roles as Cougar Volleyball players without the stresses of the traditional season. In August, they will be that much further ahead. We are thankful for their commitment.'