September 1, 1998
Washington State University volleyball fans will see many new faces in Cougar jerseys this season, playing home matches in a new location and on a new day, but they will count on the same old outcome - a successful season of exciting collegiate volleyball.
The new faces include six freshmen and two junior college transfers. The new places are the Sport Court at Beasley Coliseum for home matches and moving from Saturday nights to Sunday afternoons for Pac-10 contests.
As Cougar coach Cindy Fredrick enters her tenth season on the Palouse, the program's progress is astounding: seven years of post-season play, five consecutive years of advancing past the first round of NCAA Championships, eight years of being ranked in the national top twenty-five poll.
Fredrick's diamond anniversary year with the Cougs finds her with an 184-113 record at Pullman (.620) and a 13-year career win-loss record of 270-173 (.609). Returning for his tenth year is assistant coach and Fredrick's husband, Dr. Mashallah Farokhmanesh. New to the program this year is assistant coach Shannon Hoyt, a 1995 graduate of St. Ambrose College and former head coach at her alma mater.
Gone are four, four-year letterwinners who played such an important role in building Washington State into one of the top teams in the Pacific-10 Conference - Elis Arias, Stephanie Papke, Keren Oigman and Shannon Wyckoff. During their careers, WSU played in four consecutive NCAA Championship tournaments (five for Papke), accumulated a 91-33 win-loss record, a 22-match home win-streak, and home attendance ranked 15th or higher in the nation.
Last season's 26-7 overall record and 12-6 conference record (tied for fourth) led the way to WSU's sixth NCAA Championship Tournament berth this decade. The Cougars advanced past Lehigh (3-0) in the first round and past Colorado State (3-1) in the second round before falling to final four participant Florida (0-3) in the semifinals of the Central Regional at Wisconsin.
"This year will be a different look after being accustomed to seeing the Baby Bombers for four straight years," Fredrick said. "We have a good balance of a lot of big, tall players and a lot of smaller players who can play back row. We're going to have some exciting players stepping on the court a little more often."
Six letterwinners return to the Cougar court this season led by senior All-Pac-10 middle blocker Jennifer Stinson. Stinson's 3.45 kills and 1.56 blocks per game averages along with her 31 service aces led the team. The 6-1 Davenport, Wash., native's blocking was third in the Pac-10 and ninth nationally.
"Jennifer is an incredible blocker," Fredrick said. "She reads so well and she reaches and penetrates very well. She moves very fluidly, jumps very easily and she's come into her own this spring, even more so than last year. Volleyball is becoming more of a natural game to her than it was when she started. She's looking as talented as a volleyball player as she was as a basketball player. Its really something to see the improvement she's made just this spring. Stinson has really smoothed out her game."
Stinson announced last spring she will join the Cougar women's basketball team upon the completion of her volleyball career in December. A prep All-American selection, Stinson will plans to play basketball for WSU for two seasons while she works on her graduate studies in education. Before she hits the hardwood, Stinson will make dents in several WSU volleyball records: she is currently seventh in all-time solo blocks (48), block assists (291) and total blocks (339) categories and needs only 160 kills to break into the top ten there too.
Fredrick is impressed by the connection between team co-captains Stinson and setter Samantha Spink - Stinson's third setter in four years - both on and off the court.
Spink transferred from Penn State in 1997 and played in one third of the Cougar games last season. Known as an intense competitor and hard worker, the 5-9 senior from Coeur d'Alene, Idaho, has had two springs to practice with the Cougs and learn the offense from two of WSU's All-American setters - former coach Keri Killebrew and Papke.
"Samantha Spink brings a real dynamic setter's attitude to the court," Fredrick said. "She's doing a great job running the middle hitters. She wants to make the hitters as successful as she possibly can. Sam's waited a long time to be in this position and I think she's going to relish every moment she has on the floor."
Senior Wendy Rouse from Reno, Nev., came on strong last season as a right side hitter but had her season cut short with a thumb injury. With 2.51 kills per game and 0.97 blocks per game averages, she follows Stinson with the best statistics among Cougar returnees. Fredrick feels Wendy has the ability to be a very dominating right side hitter.
"I want to see her more aggressive and controlling that right side," Fredrick said. "She's improved a lot and we need to see her carry that through to the matches this fall. She can be a pretty decent back row player and passer as well, which is good for a 6-3 player." v The other half of the Cougar twin towers, 6-6 middle blocker Colleen Smith, returns for her sophomore season. Selected the team's most improved player after last season, Smith, who earned All-Pac-10 Freshman team honorable mention, continued to impress the coaches during spring drills. Smith, from Albuquerque, NM, spent the summer playing on the USA Women's Volleyball Training Team in Colorado Springs, Colo.
Fredrick says the key to success for Rouse and Smith this season will be their ability to assert themselves more and use their height to their advantage.
"Colleen should be a very intimidating player and she needs to have the attitude of an intimidating player," Fredrick said. "If she puts that together with her physical package, she'll be an amazing middle hitter. She's running some very specific sets with Sam so she should be fun the watch this fall."
Rounding out the returning Cougars are senior reserve players Kim Kleven and Lucie Vratnickova. Kleven, from Spokane, Wash., is a defensive specialist who has gained confidence in the back row both defensively and as a hitter. She is also a consistent server with the ability to effectively go both short and long. Vratnickova, an outside hitter from the Czech Republic, was a junior college transfer last season and directly benefited from spring drills with the team. A good blocker who could play either left side or right side, Fredrick says consistency will earn her additional time on the court.
The Cougar newcomers are led by two outstanding freshmen - Missy Blackshire and Kali Surplus. Both have been selected to the 1998 Volleyball Magazine Fab 50 seniors list (top prep recruits of the year) and both should have an immediate impact on the Cougar volleyball program.
Blackshire is a 5-11 outside hitter from Spokane, Wash., who has the magical combination of speed, long arms and a tremendous jumping ability plus an intense desire to succeed at volleyball.
"Missy is going to have an affect on this team right away because she has a great jump serve," Fredrick said. "I really like her style of play and her attitude about the game. She's a real team player and works hard to bring everybody else up and keep everybody in the game."
Surplus is a 6-1 setter and right side hitter from Gresham, Ore., who Fredrick claims is the most versatile player she's ever recruited.
"Kali (kay-lee) is a phenomenal player and she could be the best setter we've ever recruited," Fredrick said. "She has the ability to play her first year as either a right side or left side hitter. She'll be practicing as a setter as well and she will step right in when Sam's finished. From the time I saw her I knew I wanted her and I was going to get her."
Junior transfer Joy Sperry, a 6-1 left side hitter, comes from the highly successful program at the College of Southern Idaho (National Junior College Champions 1993-97). Fredrick compares her to Spink in terms of experience, energy, competitiveness on the court and her die-hard attitude.
"Joy's going to be a taller outside hitter than we've ever had," Fredrick said. "If we can direct her energies and her talent she's going to have a real impact on the outside for us. She wants to win, she knows how to win and this is where she wants to be."
Alicia Erickson is a 6-4 middle outside hitter from Minden, Nev., who spent the spring and summer fine-tuning her game by commuting to Los Angeles and playing with the ASICS West Club team.
"Alicia (ah-LEE-sha) has a great range of talent and is a good all-around player," Fredrick said. "She was training at outside hitter with her club team but has also been tearing it up in the middle. Her post-season development was great this spring. She has a good possibility to see court time in any position."
Kristen Johnson is 5-11 outside hitter from Olympia, Wash., who Fredrick expects to redshirt her freshman season.
"It's been fun to watch Kristen's progress so far this spring," Fredrick said. "She's a dynamic player and a very good leaper. To Kristen's credit, she wants to redshirt because she wants to have the ability to develop and be very good for all four years."
Joining the 1998 team as walk-ons are Mary Luhrs, Kerry Lewis and Stacey Miller.
Luhrs is a 5-8 junior defensive specialist who transfer from Golden State College in Los Angeles and practiced with the Cougar team last spring. The WSU coaches saw some bright spots in her passing and she worked hard on the defensive end of the game.
Lewis is a 5-8 defensive specialist from West Linn, Ore. As a prep senior Lewis watched the Cougars play and decided she could see some playing time in the back row.
"We're a big hitting team and a big blocking team which might be a little suspect on the passing and defensive end," Fredrick said. "Somebody like Kerry sees the opportunity for playing time. She could add a lot in the back row for us and that's exactly what we need."
Miller is a 5-10 setter from Bellingham, Wash., who Fredrick calls a terrific athlete and an incredible basketball player while at Sehome High.
"I don't think we've ever had a setter of Stacey's ability walk on," Fredrick said. "That speaks a lot for the program and of Stacey. She can help in terms of being a backup setter and developing her skills - maybe redshirt."
Jessica Martin, a redshirt junior middle blocker from Wilbur, Wash., has taken a medical hardship leave from the team. Martin has spent the past year suffering from a bad back and after conferring with the coaches and team physicians, decided to end her volleyball career. And Jennifer Canevari, a three-year letterwinner at outside hitter from Stockton, Calif., has left the team for personal reasons.
Washington State opens the 1998 season with the ninth annual Cougar Challenge Tournament, hosting Utah, Louisville and Gonzaga on the new Sport Court in Beasley Coliseum. The court will sit perpendicular to the basketball court at the southeast end of the coliseum and the partially curtained seating will allow for 6,374 volleyball fans.
The Cougars' non-conference schedule includes meeting perennial powers BYU and Long Beach State in Provo, Utah, for pre-conference action. Washington State will host the U.S. National Team in an exhibition match at the Spokane Arena Sunday, Oct. 25. And for the pre-NCAA tournament warm-up, the Cougs will play in the Pac-10/SEC Conference Challenge Tournament at DisneyWorld in Orlando, Florida. Florida and South Carolina will represent the Southeast Conference while Washington State and Washington will be the Pac-10 teams in the post-Thanksgiving tourney.