Volleyball travels to Virginia next weekend

Four starters return as the Cougs prepare for upcoming season

The+WSU+women%27s+volleyball+team+celebrates+on-court+after+scoring+the+18th+and+winning+point+against+Utah+on+Sept.+28%2C+2018+in+Bohler+Gym.
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Volleyball travels to Virginia next weekend

The WSU women's volleyball team celebrates on-court after scoring the 18th and winning point against Utah on Sept. 28, 2018 in Bohler Gym.

The WSU women's volleyball team celebrates on-court after scoring the 18th and winning point against Utah on Sept. 28, 2018 in Bohler Gym.

BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

The WSU women's volleyball team celebrates on-court after scoring the 18th and winning point against Utah on Sept. 28, 2018 in Bohler Gym.

BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

The WSU women's volleyball team celebrates on-court after scoring the 18th and winning point against Utah on Sept. 28, 2018 in Bohler Gym.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

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The WSU volleyball team will travel to Harrisonburg, Virginia, to open the season in a three-game tournament Aug. 30-31.

The JMU Invitational tournament is hosted by James Madison University. WSU will start the tournament against JMU at 7 a.m. PST Friday. On Saturday, they face the University of Iowa at 7 a.m. PST and Stony Brook University 2 p.m. PST in a doubleheader.

Last season, the Cougars finished 23-10 overall and 12-8 in conference to finish fourth place in the Pac-12. They earned a spot in the NCAA Tournament. Their season ended after losing to No. 1 Stanford in the Sweet Sixteen of the tournament, and they finished their season ranked No. 16 in the country.

This season, the Cougars enter their ninth season under Head Coach Jen Greeny and will start the season ranked No. 22. Greeny has an overall record of 132-130 at WSU and has coached the team to the National Tournament each season since 2016.

The Cougars added seven freshmen to their roster. At the end of last season, six seniors departed including starters Taylor Mims, McKenna Woodford and Claire Martin.

Senior setter Ashley Brown said she is excited to have what feels like a new team with 11 players not having played in a match.

“I’m excited to surprise people and find a new identity,” she said.

Filling in for the seniors that have left and adjusting to college play will be season challenges, Brown said.

“It’ll be a challenge to be a unit really quickly,” she said. “Our team standard is we want to make the tournament every year, so they need to come in with that mindset and determination.”

To do that, Brown said the team is going to have to keep a disciplined mentality like they had last season, where they approached each game one at a time.

“Any team can beat any team at any given time on any day,” Brown said.

Returning with Brown is Jocelyn Urias, redshirt senior middle blocker. Urias defended the Cougar’s front line with 128 blocks last season and set a career-high with 18 kills. Both her and Brown earned honorable mentions on the All-Pac-12 team.

Other returners include junior outside hitter/setter Penny Tusa and senior defensive specialist/libero Alexis Dirige. Dirige finished fourth in the conference with 562 digs while playing libero. Tusa moved to outside hitter midway through last season after the Cougars started using one setter in their offensive scheme.

The Cougars first home game of the season will be at noon on Sept. 13. vs. Idaho State University during the Cougar Challenge. Conference play will start against the University of Washington at 5:30 p.m. on Sept. 25 in Pullman.