Defense leads volleyball to 8-1 start

JACKSON GARDNER | Evergreen Reporter

The WSU volleyball team’s form has aided their 8-1 record in nonconference play. This weekend, they look to keep it rolling at the Dr. Mary Jo Wynn Invitational in Springfield, Missouri.

It is no secret that September has treated the Cougars well so far. WSU swept all of their opponents this month, and now share a spot at the top of the Pac-12 standings.

Head Coach Jen Greeny and her coaching staff have developed their team into quite the defensive-savvy club. They lead the NCAA in blocks per set and have the lowest opponent hitting percentage in the Pac-12.

The play of redshirt sophomore middle blocker Jocelyn Urias has turned heads early in the season. She emerged as the Pac-12’s blocks-per-set leader with 1.77 — good for the third best average in the NCAA.

Even Urias is slightly surprised by her form so far this season. After spending last summer playing with the Mexican national team, she felt her fitness was not on par with her teammates’ physique.

“All of my teammates were working out really hard while I was just playing, and not working on my cardio,” Urias said. “I was not expecting to play this well. But hey, I’ll take it.”

With a successful start to the 2017 season and a 2016 NCAA championship tournament appearance to their name, the Cougars have begun to make national noise.

WSU opened the season four spots out of the AVCA top-25 coaches’ poll and the program is still hovering around the same mark. In the Sept. 11 AVCA coaches poll, the Cougars tallied 25 votes, tying them with the University of Illinois at 29th overall.

The Wynn Invitational begins at 8:05 a.m. PST on Friday with the Cougs squaring up against Tennessee State University (4-6). Later in the day, the Cougars will take on the host team, Missouri State University (6-3), who will be the Cougars’ biggest competition, Greeny said.

Greeny, along with junior outside hitter McKenna Woodford and senior opposite Casey Schoenlein, will be reunited with their fellow collegiate U.S. national team selection Lily Johnson, MSU’s senior outside hitter.

All three played under Greeny for the Collegiate U.S. National Team Europe Tour last summer in Italy and Croatia.

WSU will wrap up the tournament at 9:30 a.m. PST on Saturday with a match against University of Tennessee, Chattanooga (7-4). All of the matches will be broadcasted locally on KQQQ-1150 AM radio. The radio broadcast will also be available on the WSU Athletics website.