WSU looking to make a statement

Aug. 24—When the expectation of a program is greatness, it's on the players and coaches to raise the bar.

The Washington State volleyball team is currently in the midst of one of its best runs in program history.

The Cougars have made the NCAA tournament seven consecutive seasons and enter the 2023 season ranked as the No. 21 team in the country. Washington State's NCAA tournament appearances haven't always meant success in the postseason bracket.

The Cougars haven't advanced past the Sweet 16 round during Jen Greeny's tenure as volleyball coach.

This season Washington State has experience on its roster and will have several early and midseason tests to prove to the country and themselves that they are a team to be feared.

The first of those tests will come this weekend. The Cougars will open the season at Wright State, will play No. 4-ranked Louisville on Saturday and wrap up the weekend against Troy on Sunday. Those matches are part of the Cardinal Classic, which Louisville will be hosting at its home gym.

"I think our team is so experienced," Greeny said in a news conference. "They know that Wright State is our first opponent and sometimes that's hard when you're going in a different team's gym to not look ahead. ... But they understand the importance of that."

Experience might be the team's best advantage going in to the Cardinal Classic.

Fourteen out of the 16 players on Washington State's roster are juniors or older. That kind of experience is rare and will help prepare the team for a variety of tough competition — and there's going to be a lot of that.

After the Cougars' three-match trip in Kentucky, the team has a number of who's who top-tier volleyball programs on the schedule.

The Cougars are slated to play No. 17-ranked BYU, No. 15-ranked Baylor, No. 22-ranked USC, No. 9-ranked Oregon, No. 3-ranked Stanford and No. 1-ranked Texas this season.

Washington State will have to play USC, Oregon and Stanford twice due to the teams playing in the same conference.

Before taking on those tasks, the Cougars will have to get through the upcoming weekend.

"Teams across the country have been in double days and really training straight for two-and-a-half weeks without a whole lot of time off," Greeny said. "By this time, I think we're ready for that. Sometimes three matches in three days is easier than what we've been doing practice-wise."

The team, in addition to experience, has talent. Iman Isanovic, Magda Jehlarova and Pia Timmer were all named to the preseason All-Pac-12 team. Isanovic, a transfer from Arizona State, started every match for her former school and was seventh for total kills in the conference. Jehlarova is arguably the best middle blocker in school history and has the school record for highest single-season attack percentage in school history with .420. Timmer led the team with 3.56 kills per set and 40 service-aces.

"I think we're really excited to play," Greeny said. "With such a veteran team, sometimes you're like 'OK, we're done practicing, let's go play.' But this fall camp has gone by so fast and I think it's just because they know the standards. They know the expectations. They've been in here getting stuff done. We've gotten better every single day."

Kowatsch can be contacted at 208-848-2268, or on Twitter @Teren_Kowatsch.