Cougs eye NCAA Tournament once again

Experienced volleyball team looks to build off last season and start strong in loaded conference.


The first game of the 2016 season against Maryland Eastern Shore ended with a 3-0 victory for WSU

Tyler Shuey, Evergreen columnist

After crawling up the bottom of the Pac-12 standings the last few years, the WSU Volleyball team plans to be a perennial contender after qualifying for the NCAA Tournament last season.

The Cougars finished fifth in a conference that sent eight teams to the NCAA Tournament last year, winning 22 times, the most in 14 seasons. WSU won their opening round game of the tournament against Marquette before losing to No. 3 Wisconsin in the second round.

“The goal every year is of course to go back to the NCAA Tournament,” Head Coach Jen Greeny said.  “We don’t necessarily look at that every single day, we’re looking at trying to get better and really focusing on the process instead of the results.”

The team returns plenty of experienced players with nine upperclassmen. Junior outside hitter said she Taylor Mims doesn’t think the expectations have changed from last season.

“It’s not going to be a victory lap, we’re just going to be building off what we had last year,” Mims said. “I think we’re going to be pretty strong, we have some good heads on our shoulders.”

WSU was picked seventh in a preseason vote of the conference coaches in an extremely deep conference. The top eight in the poll all made the NCAA Tournament in 2016. The Cougs finished last season breaking the top 25 at No. 24, and start this season a No. 29, just missing a national ranking.

“This conference, especially in volleyball is amazingly tough,” Greeny, the 2016 Pac-12 coach of the year, said.  “You don’t necessarily have to win the Pac-12 title and you can still go out and win a national championship.”

Greeny said she is also very excited about the production of the team in certain positions.

“I think we have a lot of depth right now,” she said, “both in our setter position and our defensive specialist position, more depth than I think we’ve ever had.”

The team heads to Washington D.C. to play two games in two days against American University and Howard. Both teams made the NCAA Tournament last year. Mims said consistency in the team’s approach is key in propelling them to a good start this season.

“I think we need to stay together and all have the same mindset. We need to all be focused on the here and now and not the big picture.”

The Cougars open the season at 1 p.m. Sunday at American University in D.C.