Cougar volleyball heads to Virginia

Team faces off with James Madison Friday morning, follows with doubleheader on Saturday

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BENJAMIN MICHAELIS | DAILY EVERGREEN FILE

Then-junior setter Ashley Brown serves the ball in the game against the University of Southern California on Oct.19 in Bohler Gym.

JAKOB THORINGTON, Evergreen reporter

WSU’s No. 22 volleyball team will travel to the other side of the country this weekend to compete in its first tournament of the season.

They will open a three-match tournament in the James Madison University Invitational, playing JMU first at 7:00 a.m. on Friday in Harrisonburg, Virginia.

On Saturday, the Cougars will play in a doubleheader where they will face the University of Iowa at 7:00 a.m. and then at 2:00 p.m. challenge Stony Brook University.

Aside from the competing teams, a three-hour time difference also poses as a challenge for the team, senior setter Ashley Brown said.

“We need to take our sleep schedules really seriously when we get to Virginia,” she said.

Returning players have made trips to the eastern part of the country in previous seasons. Brown said they’ll help guide the new players this year on handling the time difference.

With 11 new players that haven’t seen any action yet, Brown said she is excited to have a new team that has not been scouted by their competition.

Other starters returning with Brown are redshirt senior middle blocker Jocelyn Urias and senior defensive specialist/libero Alexis Dirige. The three were part of the starting lineup last season that reached the Sweet Sixteen of the NCAA tournament.

Urias and Brown enter this season after earning Pac-12 honorable mentions. Dirige sits in third place for total digs in WSU history.

JMU has been winners of Colonial Athletic Association in 2016 and 2017 but fell to Hofstra University in 2018. The conference has selected the school as the favorite to win its championship once again and has two JMU players named to its preseason All-CAA team.

Last season, Iowa finished 15-16 (7-13 Big 10). Vicki Brown steps in for her first year as interim head coach this season.

Friday’s match will be the first time in program history the Cougars face JMU. WSU is 2-0 all-time against Iowa, playing them last in 1996 where they won 3-0. WSU beat Stony Brook 3-0 in last season’s Cougar Challenge.