The trip down memory lane continues with a few more selections, or highlights if you will, of outstanding Washington State University sports performances.
Win, lose, or draw WSU students/athletes know what it takes to compete at the highest levels. They don't shy away from any opportunity to play with the best or defend their position as the best.
If you haven't checked out my initial picks for recognition as top performances of the decade for WSU, pause and take a look.
For the next selection, roll back your internal memory clock to the beginning of this decade. Naturally, the other selections chosen for this segment will require a little bouncing back and forth. Doesn't that have metaphorical implications?
2002 WSU Women’s Volleyball
Washington State women’s volleyball began and ended the past decade on high notes. Coach Cindy Fredrick led the Cougs to NCAA Championship appearances in 2000, 2001, and 2002. It was the run made in 2002 that evokes strong memories of Cougar Pride in the extreme.
Some would describe Coach Fredrick’s squad as a team of overachievers. Then again, that label is all too often applied to students and athletes who call Pullman, Wash., home during their collegiate career.
If you were lucky enough to see Adrian Hankoff , LaToya Harris, Chelsie Schafer, Kortney Jamtaas, and Victoria Prince play, adjectives such as intense, focused, and warrior would come to mind.
These young women were the heart and soul of the Cougar volleyball team who would work their way through the minefield known as the NCAA Championship.
The No. 10-ranked WSU 2002 volleyball team (24-8) earned their way to an Elite Eight pairing against Florida (34-2). By taking the opening set 30-27, the Cougs were just two sets from a trip to the Final Four.
That proved to be where the run would come to an end, as the Gators won the next three sets to take the match.
Coach Fredrick can take pride in the legacy established by the outstanding three-year run to begin the decade, doing so without All-Americans and LaToya Harris as the lone selection for WSU as an All Pac-10 First Team player. Harris was responsible for rewriting virtually the entire WSU volleyball record book.
The future of Washington State volleyball will be measured against this exceptional 2002 team of Cougs.
2002 WSU Football
Regardless of the outcome of the game, when your team plays in the Rose Bowl it’s something special. For the second time in five years, Washington State earned the right to play in Pasadena on New Year’s Day as Pac-10 Champions.
There was a time when Cougar Nation could only dream of playing in the Rose Bowl. A return visit in such a relatively short period of time was quite a jolt, sparking new levels of Cougar Pride.
The 2003 Rose Bowl game marked the end of the Mike Price era. Coach Price, arguably the most successful football coach in WSU history, accepted the opportunity to take over the Alabama program shortly after the 2002 football schedule was finished.
However, before moving on to a debacle that would forever taint his college football coaching career, Price would be on the sidelines in the Rose Bowl side-by-side with the heir to his throne, defensive coordinator Bill Doba.
Thanks to the BCS bowl scheme, the Cougs would face the Oklahoma Sooners.
Jason Gesser and the Cougar offense put 21 points or more up on the scoreboard every game on the 2002 schedule. Heck, Gesser engineered the Cougs to more than 40 points five times while playing in the Pac-10.
Unfortunately, Washington State didn’t play true to form Jan. 1, 2003. Nate Hybl, quarterback for the Sooners, was the man moving his offense up and down the field and enjoying a career day, shredding Coach Doba’s defense for 27 points before the Cougs found their way into the end zone.
Final score OU 34–WSU 14
2007-2008 WSU Men's Basketball
Coming on the heels of an outstanding 2006-2007 season, the question posed during preseason was, “Can Coach Bennett take his team back to the NCAA tourney again?”
Key players on the WSU team from the previous season: Kyle Weaver, Derrick Low, and Robbie Cowgill returned for their senior season, providing Coach Bennett with a wealth of player experience.
The Cougs weren’t going to slip past teams anymore. Opponents had a very good idea what they were in for when playing Washington State. They could expect a good dose of deliberate play, taking shots deep into the shot clock, and hustling back on defense—Bennett Ball.
Coach Tony Bennett masterminded a path for the Cougs through one of the toughest seasons in a Pac-10 conference loaded with NBA-quality talent.
WSU finished the regular schedule with a 24-8 record ranked No. 21 in the nation. Most importantly, Washington State was returning to the NCAA tourney for a second consecutive season.
After two easy wins to begin their run toward a national championship crown over Winthrop and Notre Dame, No. 1 seed North Carolina ended the WSU dream in their Sweet 16 matchup. The final record for Washington State was an outstanding 26-9.
There will be more tomorrow, so check back for the spotlight to pinpoint more Cougar sports highlights of the decade.
Originally published in Lew Wright's WSU Sports column on Examiner.com