Hankoff hopes hard work pays off with big season at WSU
Was it really three years ago that Adrian Hankoff was about to lead the South Tahoe High volleyball team to a zone championship and third place in the Nevada 4A state tournament?
“It’s going by so fast. I don’t want to leave,” said Hankoff, who starts her junior season at Washington State University in the Les Schwab Cougar Challenge Tournament on Friday in Pullman, Wash.
With her college eligibility starting to run out, Hankoff’s urgency to improve has coincided with her Cougar teammates’ desire to better last year’s 19-10 record and fifth-place Pac-10 standing.
“My whole game has improved tremendously all-around, and it’s nothing compared to high school,” Hankoff said. “Every year I try to get better, and this year I’m working really hard. So we’ll see where it takes me. Hopefully far.”
WSU’s 13-year coach Cindy Fredrick certainly has noticed a change for the better in Hankoff’s all-around game.
“Adrian’s hitting has been phenomenal, getting up and over the top of people,” Fredrick said. “She’s learned to off-speed, hammer the line and hit cross-court ,so she has a little basket full of shots now.
“She has improved her passing consistency by about 60 percent. It’s just amazing. She’s going to be an impact player.”
Hankoff attributes her broadened arsenal to the rehab work she did on her right shoulder, which originally started bothering her as a freshman.
“I wasn’t hitting the ball all that hard, so it changed up my game a bit and made me think a lot more of where I was going to hit the ball instead of hitting the ball hard,” she said.
What impact Hankoff will have is in Fredrick’s hands. After practice Wednesday, Fredrick hadn’t decided whether Hankoff, junior Chelsea Schafter or sophomore Zanda Bautre would come off the bench. Two of the three outside hitters will start.
“We lost only one player,” Hankoff said. “This year, everyone is battling for a starting position, and it’s made us work a lot harder.”
Hankoff started 14 straight matches to open her sophomore year, but then Fredrick used her effectively off the bench. She finished fifth on the team with 2.44 kills per game and isn’t expecting Fredrick to use her that way again just because of the way she performed in that role last year.
“The best is out there. It’s not who’s the better bench player. All three of us would be good coming off the bench,” Hankoff said.
A preseason poll by the USA Today lists the Cougars 29th, even though they return all six starters and nine letterwomen.
“We’re kind of bitter, but it just gives us motivation,” Hankoff said. “We know how good we are and how well we can play, and that we can play with anyone in the top 25.
“Everyone’s goal this year is to make it at least to the sweet 16, and I definitely think it’s possible.”
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