Cougar volleyball set for 2021 season

WSU returns all starters from last season; selected fifth in the Pac-12 preseason coaches poll



Then sophomore outside hitter Pia Timmer rises up over net to spike ball.

KAT MCKINNEY-ROLEY, Evergreen reporter

WSU women’s volleyball has been on the lookout for a Pac-12 championship since head coach Jen Greeny took over. Last year, the Cougs went 11-4 with an appearance in the NCAA tournament but were defeated by Western Kentucky in the first round.

Last season, the Cougs had several important matches canceled because of COVID-19 protocols. This year, the Cougs look to play a full schedule with hopefully no cancelations. The Cougs are still a fairly young team and only graduated one senior last year. All starters are coming back for at least another year to bring their talents to the volleyball court.

The Cougs have made five straight NCAA appearances and are looking to make their sixth this season. Last season, Hannah Pukis, Pia Timmer and Magda Jehlarova were selected to the Pac-12 All-Conference first team. This was the first time in program history that three players made that list. Julianna Dalton was also named to the Pac-12 All-Freshman team for the 2020 season. Pukis earned AVCA All-American honors. Jehlarova was also awarded Pac-12 Defensive Player of the Week and Pac-12 Offensive Player of the week once each.

On Wednesday, the Pac-12 announced the results of the preseason coaches poll. WSU was selected to finish fifth overall and saw Pukis, Timmer and Jehlarova named to the All-Pac-12 preseason team.

Last season, the Cougs had quite the offensive and defensive season. WSU swept several teams this last season as well. The Cougs had 794 kills overall and only 315 errors in 16 matches. The average attack percent on the season was .235. The Cougs also averaged 12.8 kills per set. The women had 687 attacks overall on the season with an average of 11.1 on the set. There were only four ball-handling errors total for the season.

Penny Tusa led the Cougs with aces for the year. Overall, there were 96 aces on the season for the Cougs, compared to the 66 that opponents had against the Cougs. There were 126 service errors overall on the season. The team also had 842 digs for the season. WSU had 50 solo blocks as well as 220 assists. There were also 160 blocks total on the season.

The Cougs are currently ranked No. 18 in the AVCA poll. This season the women face 10 of the top 25 teams in the nation. In their first matches, the women play in the Carolina Classic in Columbia, South Carolina. In that tournament, the women play the South Carolina Gamecocks and No. 9 Pittsburgh. In the second tournament, the Rebel Challenge, the women will play No. 8 Purdue and UNLV.

In September, WSU will also host the Cougar Challenge in Pullman. They will play Long Beach State, Northern Iowa and Gonzaga. After the Cougar Challenge, the Cougs will head to the Thunderdome Classic and play UC Santa Barbara twice and VCU once.

The Cougars open up Pac-12 play against Colorado followed by the No. 2 Washington Huskies. WSU will be in Bohler Gym for the first four matches of the 2021 Pac-12 season. After a match with No. 17 UCLA, the Cougs will head to Arizona where they will face Arizona State and the Arizona Wildcats. Right after their trip to Arizona, the Cougs will take on the No. 14 Oregon Ducks in Eugene.

The Cougs will also play all the California schools to close out the first half of the conference slate. WSU will be finishing their season in Seattle against the No. 2 Huskies for the second of two Apple Cup meetings.

The Cougars are looking forward to another NCAA tournament birth as well as a hopeful Pac-12 Championship. The players on this team are still young as well, the Cougs are also looking to have their younger members on the court more to be able to be even more competitive with the rest of the NCAA.

WSU starts its season Aug. 27 in Columbia, South Carolina.