WSU volleyball earns seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament bid

Cougars face UNLV 5 p.m. Thursday

The+WSU+volleyball+team+celebrates+after+winning+a+point+during+an+NCAA+volleyball+match+against+Arizona%2C+Oct.+21.

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The WSU volleyball team celebrates after winning a point during an NCAA volleyball match against Arizona, Oct. 21.

SAM TAYLOR, Evergreen sports editor

WSU volleyball is going dancing for the seventh straight season!

The most successful program on the Palouse was selected by the NCAA for an at-large bid in the 2022 NCAA Division-I Volleyball Tournament.

The Cougs (22-9, 14-6 Pac-12) will begin their dance in the San Diego bracket where they will meet University of Nevada Las Vegas Runnin’ Rebels (26-4, 17-1 Mountain West) at 5 p.m.Thursday in San Diego.

The Cougars program-record seventh consecutive NCAA Tournament bid is another testament to the determination and vision of head coach Jen Greeny to guide a team through the early injury struggles and top-25 losses.

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WSU volleyball head coach Jen Greeny catches a ball during warm-ups before an NCAA volleyball match against Utah, Nov. 18.

It is also a testament to the spectacular recruiting of Burdette Greeny, associate head coach and recruiting coordinator. Five Cougar starters are international recruits comprising one of the best lineups in the nation.

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WSU volleyball associate head coach Burdette Greeny celebrates after sweeping Utah, Nov. 18.

Finally, a tournament bid speaks to the key contributions of the entire coaching staff including Sheri Sanders, who joined the staff in the spring. She helped Argentina Ung perform at a high level following the transfer of Hannah Pukis, their previous All-Pac-12 setter.

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WSU outside hitter Pia Timmer (left) and setter Argentina Ung (right) celebrate after scoring a point during an NCAA volleyball match against UW, Nov. 25.

The 2022 squad is home to program legends Pia Timmer and Magda Jehlarova. Timmer ranks in the top 10 in the Pac-12 in kills per set (3.46) right behind her teammate, graduate transfer Laura Jansen (3.51) who is ninth in the Conference.

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WSU recognizes senior outside hitter Laura Jansen before an NCAA volleyball game against UW, Nov. 25.

Jehlarova has been shattering the WSU record books throughout her career. In the final week of the regular season, she improved her career total block count to 592, the second-most in program history.

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WSU middle blocker Magda Jehlarova (15) and setter Argentina Ung (12) celebrate after a point during an NCAA women’s volleyball match against California Baptist, Sept. 1, at Bohler Gymnasium.

WSU volleyball’s third-place Pac-12 Conference finish is its best since 2002.

Greeny has now contributed to 13 of WSU’s 17 Tournament trips including three as a player 1995-97, three as an assistant coach 2000-02 and the last seven as head coach.

The Cougs’ best Tournament years were 1996 and 2002 when they reached the elite eight. Greeny was a player on the ‘96 team and an assistant on the ‘02 team.

Greeny now seeks to see her team advance far in the Tournament.

Last year, the No. 22 Cougs swept Northern Colorado in the first round before they were swept by No. 6 Baylor in the second round.

If WSU wins on Thursday, they would face the winner of San Diego and Northern Colorado.

They will need to get past a UNLV team that was swept in the Mountain West Championship by Utah State but is nonetheless hungry for success.

“It’s that time of year, you win or go home,” Greeny said. “The second half of the Pac-12 season, we were doing that a lot just to get into the tournament. We knew we needed so many wins to be able to get in, but the team responded very well to that pressure.”

Senior libero Karly Basham is a team leader for the Cougs who recognizes what Wazzu needs to do to advance.

Basham is one of five seniors (including Timmer, Jehlarova, Julia Norville and Weronika Wojdyla) who chose to return to WSU in 2023 for one last dance. Before that, she will join her 2022 teammates for a shot at postseason glory in a win-or-go-home situation.

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WSU libero Karly Basham celebrates with her teammates after scoring a point during an NCAA volleyball match against UW, Nov. 25.

“There is a lot of pressure with it but I think the best thing to do is embarrass it. I think it’s a great opportunity for us to prove to ourselves that this team is a fighting team and this team is not going to go down without a fight either,” Basham said.

Cougar volleyball’s post-season journey begins at 5 p.m. Thursday at Jenny Craig Pavilion in San Diego. The game will air on ESPN +.