Pullman is a home away from home for WSU volleyball


Junior outside hitter Casey Schoenlein celebrates in a game against Oregon on Nov. 6.

WSU, home to almost 30,000 students, is known for its place in Pac-12 sports and its family oriented campus. Cougar pride has been spread throughout the world, stemming from the small town of Pullman, Washington – a place that most of us had never even heard of before turning in our college applications.

Addressing the first claim to fame, the student-athletes of WSU are seen as major advocates for their university. WSU women’s volleyball sophomore middle blockers Claire Martin and Taylor Mims, and junior outside hitter Casey Schoenlein spoke about what makes WSU an experience worth having and why they chose to play for this school.

“There’s no place like it,” Schoenlein said. “No college rivals the Cougar pride. They say ‘once a Coug, always a Coug,’ and that is so true. There’s nothing like Pullman, it just takes a visit and people can see that.”

When the three players were asked what they love most about widespread Cougar pride, they all had the same response. The players said they could be at any airport in the country, in the world even, and they would hear a familiar “Go Cougs!”

WSU is also known for some of the loudest and most supportive fans at any sporting event. Bohler Gym is home to the WSU women’s volleyball team, and can be an intense environment to play a volleyball match in. In Bohler Gym, no one sits, not the players on the bench, and certainly not the fans.

“It’s really exciting [playing in Bohler],” Mims said. “It gives you that extra ‘oomph’, it’s hard to describe, but it’s definitely a boost in your adrenaline. When they start cheering and you can’t hear anyone else even on your own side, that’s awesome to me.”

Last season, Bohler witnessed the largest crowd it has had in 14 years with an astonishing 2,522 fans in attendance. The Cougars defeated Stanford in five sets during the match, a first since the 2002 season. The Cougs proved that with the support of their fans behind them, the WSU women’s volleyball team is a force to be reckoned with.

“When we beat Stanford last season, that gym was packed,” Martin said. “If you get a good kill or a good block, they [the fans] are right there with you. I get goosebumps just thinking about it.”

Not only is there a strong community feel between the fans and the athletes, student-athletes also have a strong bond with their teammates. The women’s volleyball team is a family on and off the court.

“One of the reasons I love volleyball is that it is such a team sport,” Schoenlein said. “You literally cannot play the sport without at least one other person. We all rely on each other. The girls, the coaches and the program are way more family-oriented than any other programs that I visited before WSU.”

Martin, Mims, and Schoenlein all decided they wanted to play college volleyball when they were sophomores in high school. With WSU’s impressive recruiting team, it wasn’t long before the three players found their way to Pullman and fell in love with the idea of becoming an official Cougar.

“I knew I wanted to play college sports my whole life,” Martin said. “My mom played college basketball for Idaho, so both my parents pushed that thought into my mind since day one.”

After their first visits to WSU, all prior judgements about WSU were out the window. Known as a small town that is dominated by the college, Pullman surprised all three girls with its beauty and unique atmosphere.

“When I first came here, I didn’t even know what the Pac-12 was,” Mims said. “I didn’t know WSU was a school. So when I came here, I thought it was amazing. I knew from my first day of classes that it was everything I dreamed of and everything I thought it was going to be. It definitely met my expectations.”

Mims said WSU gave her an opportunity for not only herself, but for her family as well, because she is a first-generation college student. The Billings, Montana, native was excited by the fact that she was able to move to a different place by coming to WSU.

Like all dedicated athletes, the Cougars are training hard for next season, hoping to come back better than ever before. With four new freshmen coming in to replace the four seniors lost, Schoenlein promised the upcoming season was going to different than what the past few years had been and that fans should “expect the unexpected.”

The Cougars use the family-like support from their teammates and fans to motivate each other and constantly work on becoming more successful in the competitive Pac-12 Conference, all while keeping their passion for the game intact.

“I love the family aspect of Washington State the most,” Martin said. “It’s a home away from home. It gave me a family – all of my teammates and coaches. I’ve met a lot of new people at this school and it’s given me a good education that I can use in my future. It really helped me grow as a person.”

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series on athletic teams, student-athletes and events that best embody the Cougar spirit and represent the university.

Editor’s note: This is the third story in a series on athletic teams, student-athletes and events that best embody the Cougar spirit and represent the university.