Washington State’s volleyball team ended its season over the weekend as the Cougars lost to No. 3 Wisconsin in the second round of the NCAA tournament. While ending the season with a loss is never how you want to end, the Cougars — and particularly this senior class — should be very proud of how they played in 2016.
This season is without question the program’s best since 2002, and a complete turnaround of where the program was when Head Coach Jen Greeny took over in 2011. This team’s 22 wins are tied for the fifth most in program history, and they are a 12-win improvement from just two seasons ago.
Plenty of credit is due to Greeny and this whole team, but one player has risen above to help get WSU its first win in the NCAA tournament since 2002. Senior outside hitter Kyra Holt will go down in the record books as one of the most decorated attackers in school history, and in our hearts as the player who led a volleyball renaissance at WSU.
Holt was recruited to WSU after a 13-19 season in which the Cougs finished last in the Pac-12. While she made an impact from day one (Holt was named to the All-Pac-12 freshmen team in 2013), winning didn’t come easy.
In 2014 the team took a step back, winning just one game in conference play. After averaging 3.89 kills per set as a freshman, Holt was less effective in her second season, dropping to 3.38. The Cougs righted the ship last season, however, and set themselves up for future success.
While a 2015’s 5-15 record in Pac-12 play doesn’t impress, it was a significant improvement on the previous season. More importantly, those Cougars had just one senior graduate in setter Kate Sommers. Holt, meanwhile, rebounded to average the sixth most kills per set in the conference, with 3.91.
The positive trajectory continued, and in Holt’s final season the Cougs won as many games against Pac-12 teams as they had in her first three years on the Palouse (11). She’ll leave with the second most kills in school history, fifth most aces, and seventh most digs.
This season it was awesome to see it all come together for Greeny and other seniors Haley MacDonald, Tani Stephens and Hailey Bethune. They’ve now laid the groundwork for the program’s future success, and hopefully regular appearances in the NCAA tournament.
Another promising non-revenue team just started its season and has the potential to have a season like that of the volleyball team. Last week, WSU women’s basketball split their weekend games, beating San Diego before losing to undefeated Boise St in overtime.
Freshman Chanelle Molina impressed with her scoring efficiency in both games. The Hawaii native scored 13 points in each game and shot a combined 9 of 14 from the field, including 6-of-8 from long range. She was one of the only Cougs who didn’t struggle shooting the ball in Sunday’s loss.
Against the Broncos, the Cougs raced out to a 14-point lead early in the second quarter before a scoring drought hit. When it was all said and done, leading scorer Borislava Hristova was 3-of-14 from the field, 1-of-5 from behind the arc, and Alexys Swedlund made just one of her seven attempts from 3-point range.
The Cougs just have one game this week, at Gonzaga. The two teams will tipoff from Spokane on Thursday at 6 p.m. The game will be broadcast locally on SWX.