Nov. 16, 2002 was senior night for the No. 17 Washington State University volleyball team. Wearing an 18-7 overall record, the Cougars were 8-7 in Pac-10 action and in fifth place. That Saturday would be the final match in Bohler Gym for five outstanding Cougars starters, all four-year letterwinners: Adrian Hankoff, LaToya Harris, Holly Harris, Kortney Jamtaas, and Chelsie Schafer.
The anticipation was mixed with melancholy for the volleyball program as well as a loyal contingent of fans. This was a Cindy Fredrick-coached Cougar team that had known success with back-to-back NCAA Tournament appearances already on its resume. Plus, this squad had beaten Stanford in 2000 when these seniors were just sophomores.
Stanford entered the match No. 1 in the USA Today/AVCA Coaches Top 25 rankings, and brought a 24-3, 14-2 record. The Cardinal brought swagger to the contest, leading the series with WSU by a 31-2 margin and as the defending national champion. In addition, Stanford came to Pullman with an 11-match win streak and had defeated the Cougs 30-28, 30-22, 30-24 in a match one month earlier at Maples Pavilion. Logan Tom, the 2001 Pac-10 and National Player of the Year, led the Cardinal with ample support including the 2001 Freshman of the Year, Ogonna Nnamani.
But these Cougars were not about to buy into the Cardinal history or No.1 hype. In front of a record crowd of 2,539 fans in the remodeled Bohler Gym, Washington State beat No. 1 Stanford with scores of 31-29, 30-24, 23-30, and 30-26. The win was the first in school volleyball history over a number one-ranked team.
The Cougars raced to an 8-1 first game lead with LaToya Harris contributing two kills a solo block. Stanford battled back to tie the game twice and eventually took a 29-28 lead on a block solo by Tom. WSU sophomore Victoria Prince landed an attack to knot the score again. Errant attacks SU's Sara McGee and Tom gave WSU the 31-29 win.
In the first half of game two, LaToya Harris was on fire as the southpaw earned the Cougars' first five points with four kills and an ace. Three more Harris kills during a 5-1 run gave WSU a 15-10 advantage. The teams traded points until kills by Stanford's Nnamani and Tom sandwiched around a Hankoff attack error cut the Cardinal deficit to 18-16. A kill by Hankoff, a block by Prince and Schafer, and a bad hit by Stanford increased the Cougars' advantage to 21-16. From there the two teams again played even until Harris closed the match with a kill and the 30-24 win.
Game three saw Stanford use a 5-0 run, aided by WSU's trio of hitting miscues, to jump out to a 6-2 lead. Twice the Cougars closed to within two, but a 9-2 run put Stanford up 17-9 and the Cardinal cruised to the 30-23 victory.
In game four, the Cardinal recorded a 7-1 run to take what seemed to be an insurmountable 19-12 advantage. The Cougars, buoyed by the exuberance of the Stimson SuperFans and the roaring crowd, showed their grit by scoring 10 of the next 12 points to take a 22-21 lead. The teams traded points, knotting the game at 23 and 24 before the visitors took a 25-24 lead. Holly Harris started the rally with a kill to tie the game at 25, followed by a dig from Jamtaas that found its way over the net and down on the Stanford side for a 26-25 WSU lead. Larson made a turn-around slam dunk kill, and leaped with Holly Harris for a block to push the advantage to 28-25. Stanford scored just once more but delivered the game to WSU with back-to-back Cardinal hitting errors.
"These seniors have provided four really great years," Coach Fredrick said. "They've been a really tight group and they've worked really hard together. For them to go out this way, it really couldn't have been more perfect. It's like the magical ending of their college careers."
In individual numbers, LaToya Harris recorded a career and match-high 29 kills and 18 digs, hit .460 and served three aces to become the WSU career record-holder with 136. Another school record was recorded by Jamtaas who tallied 34 digs from the libero position. Hankoff contributed 13 kills, Prince added five blocks and Larson had 60 assists and three blocks. Stanford's Nnamani had 25 kills while three-time All-American Tom contributed 19 kills and 21 digs, and McGee and Anna Robinson each had six blocks. Washington State, with current Head Coach Jen Greeny serving as an assistant coach on the Cougar volleyball staff, went on to win two more Pac-10 matches and advance to the 2002 NCAA Championships. The Cougar team advanced to the NCAA Elite Eight eventually falling to No. 5 Florida in Gainesville. USC defeated Stanford for the national championships.
Official Website of Washington State University Athletics | Bohler Athletic Complex | PO Box 641602 Pullman, WA 99164-1602 | 1.800.GO.COUGS