South Tahoe freshman Hankoff makes NCAA volleyball debut |

South Tahoe freshman Hankoff makes NCAA volleyball debut

You never get a second chance to make a first impression, so South Tahoe alumna Adrian Hankoff made the most of her first collegiate start on Sept. 18.

Hankoff, a freshman outside hitter for Washington State University’s volleyball team, led her team with 12 kills against ninth-ranked Stanford. Stanford defeated the Cougars in the Pac-10 opener for both teams, but Hankoff, starting in place of sophomore Missy Blackshire, also dug out a team-high 11 balls in the 15-3, 15-9, 15-4 loss.

“It was amazing, especially being Stanford,” Hankoff said. “I was nervous all day, shaking knowing I would start.”

Hankoff’s first start came against a team she always dreamed of playing, and against one of her role models, Stanford senior All-America Kerri Walsh. Hankoff wasn’t much less nervous out on the court, but it didn’t show as she led her team in two statistical categories.

“I play a lot better when I’m nervous anyway,” Hankoff said. “All the nervous energy really went into my game.”

Hankoff played middle for most of her high school career, but Washington State head coach Cindy Fredrick has been training her as an outside hitter for the past three weeks. When Fredrick sat Blackshire out for breaking team rules, Hankoff drew the start. Hankoff is one of seven Cougar freshmen on the team, and impressed her coach with her poise on the court.

“Her comment was, ‘I’ve been waiting for this for a long time,'” Fredrick said. “It’s great, because, as a freshman, you can come out and be scared to death … but she played with great control.”

Hankoff actually played her first games a few weeks ago, beginning with Washington State’s first two games, wins over Creighton and Boise State on Sept. 3 and 4. But the Stanford game provided a test for the young Cougars against a talented Pac-10 team. Hankoff responded, and followed her performance the next day with eight kills against visiting Cal on Sept. 19, as Washington State notched a 3-1 win.

“I think we just knew we had to win that game, and we did,” Hankoff said.

Hankoff is part of a youth movement in Washington State’s volleyball program. The Cougars brought young talent into the program to build for the future. With the veterans out of the game, some of the young Cougars had their fist chances against the dominant Cardinal squad. Fredrick liked what she saw on the court.

“We knew Adrian was a very, very good athlete and a very, very good hitter, but you never know how somebody is going to be at the college level,” Fredrick said.

Four of Washington State’s freshmen start, and the rest get playing time. What may help them along is the fact that Fredrick is playing the youngsters together so they get used to each other.

“Our team is really good, and I can’t even imagine what it’s going to be like,” Hankoff said. “I think we’re going to be a very good team in a couple of years with more experience, and I think we’re going to surprise a lot of teams this year.”

So is Washington State’s future secure in the hands of its youngsters, one from South Lake Tahoe?

“Nobody knows that,” Fredrick said. “If they keep playing the way they are, then they’ll be a very formidable team in a couple of years – maybe less than a couple of years.”

Washington State returned to action Thursday night against Oregon. The Cougars play Oregon State at 7 p.m. Friday.

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