Cougars spikers name South Lake frosh most improved |

Cougars spikers name South Lake frosh most improved

South Tahoe and Washington State University volleyball fans probably can’t watch the now-famous “w’sssup?” commercial without wondering about Adrian Hankoff.

That’s because WSU volleyball is up, and so is its standout freshman hitter. While the Cougars ended the season on a low note, finishing 13-15 after a Nov. 27 loss to Sacramento State, Hankoff, a 1999 graduate of South Tahoe, closed on a high one, after her teammates named her the most improved player on the young Cougars squad.

“I just stepped up, I guess, and did what I had to do,” said Hankoff, who worked her way off the bench to become a part-time starter for the Cougars. “The team voted on it, and I guess they decided I deserved it.”

Part of Hankoff’s improvement came as she gained more experienced in the tough day-to-day of Pacific 10-league volleyball. The more times Hankoff found herself across the net from players she grew up admiring, the more she realized they were just players like her.

“I kind of realized they’re human, that, they’re not these gods,” Hankoff said. “They make mistakes, just (as) you do.”

When senior Missy Blackshire left the Washington State team, it provided Hankoff with an opportunity. She stepped into the vacant outside hitter position and became a part-time starter in Blackshire’s absence. That forced Hankoff to come off the bench and make an impact, but she apparently filled that role well enough to impress her teammates.

“It’s really hard coming off the bench and going in to play,” Hankoff said. “Once I got a little more playing time, it got a little easier.”

The Cougars struggled with their relative inexperience – the team leaned heavily on its freshmen – all season. But Hankoff still managed to impress her coaches in a three-game sweep at the hands of Sac State in the final game.

“In the third game, we played really well, and Joy (Sperry) and Adrian did a great job on the left side,” Cougar coach Cindy Fredrick said after the match. “If we could have passed and served, we could have made a good match of it, but unfortunately, those things are what let us down when we really needed them. That’s a pretty crucial part of the game – passing and serving. Those are the things you hope you can say are freshman jitters. But we have to get over those now: We’re not freshmen anymore.”

But despite the end-of-season whimper, hopes for the future are high at Wazzu because of freshmen like Hankoff, LaToya Harris and Kortney Jamataas, all team award-winners. Hankoff and the Cougars are staying hungry and working hard in the off-season.

“We’ve been basically killing ourselves,” Hankoff said. “We’ve been up every morning training at seven. Thet’s going to help a lot.”

But Hankoff doesn’t need the prospect of success to keep her going. She just wants to play.

“I’m just excited to go out there anyway, just to play.”

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