JACKSON GARDNER | Evergreen reporter
WSU volleyball will travel over 2,000 miles to the East Coast in what will be the team’s second trip across the country this season.
Head Coach Jen Greeny got her team to the second round of the 2016 NCAA Volleyball Championship. To get her team past that mark in 2017, Greeny is taking her team to the talent in the east coast.
“We’ve been playing Willie Nelson’s ‘On the Road Again’ a lot,” Greeny said. “We want to play good RPI teams, and there just aren’t as many on the West Coast.”
WSU will participate in a double-header Friday in Fairfield, Connecticut. The Cougars (5-1) will take on the University of New Hampshire (2-6) at 9 a.m. PST. At 4 p.m., WSU will play Fairfield University (3-3). The Cougars will play Fairfield again at 4 p.m. PST Saturday.
The Cougars will tower over their opponents this weekend. WSU rosters seven athletes who are taller than the tallest woman on UNH or Fairfield’s team. Junior middle-blocker Claire Martin said her team’s height will be helpful.
“It gives us a big advantage blocking-wise because of how much bigger we are,” Martin said. “It’s also intimidating for another team to look at our roster and see how big we are. It can change a team’s game.”
The Cougars’ core of upperclassmen have stepped their game up in non-conference play. Junior outside hitter Taylor Mims has improved her kills per set from last year by almost a full kill per set.
Mims said she thinks moving to the outside hitter position is the reason for her spike in kills.
“Being in the middle, the only time I ever got sets were on perfect passes,” she said. “But being on the outside, I am always the outlet so I have more opportunities.”
Mims’ development has made the departure of Kyra Holt — a former American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) All-America honorable mention — feel seamless.
Holt, who played professionally in Puerto Rico last spring, has not gone far from the program since her four years of eligibility ended. She now helps the team as a student coach while she finishes her last undergraduate semester.
Among other Cougars who have excelled this year, freshman setter Penny Tusa is fighting for playing time in her first season on the Palouse. Tusa has played in 18 of the 22 sets this season. Greeny spoke highly of the freshman’s play.
“She been thrown into the setter position, which is intense, especially at the Pac-12 level,” Greeny said. “For her to be doing good things right away is nice.”
WSU will play six more nonconference matches before they open up conference play hosting the University of Washington in a televised matchup on Sept. 20.