Coach Shawn Garus has built a team with experienced veterans and talented, aggressive newcomers. Boise State turned around its season last year to finish third in the Western Athletic Conference Tournament, its highest finish since joining the WAC in 2001. Sadie Maughan, Alisha Young and Breann Nesselhuf were all named to the All-WAC Second Team last year and Liz Harden was honored on the all-conference Freshman Team. That is not only the most Broncos to earn All-WAC but the most all-conference players since four Boise State stars were named to the Big Sky team in 1990 (two second team and two honorable mention).
Those four players are all back and leading Boise State to one of its best seasons in school history. Boise State was 30-5 in 1981, was 21-7 in 1988 and finished 24-8 in 1982 and 1989. The Broncos also recorded 20-win seasons in 1986 (23-10), 1987 (21-14), 1990 (23-12) and finished 20-12 in 1997.
Young leads Boise State with 244 kills (third in the WAC), 22 service aces (also third in the conference) and 312.5 points and has 82 blocks and a 35.5% kill percentage (fourth in the WAC) while Maughan has 200 kills and a team-leading 38.1% kill rate (third in the conference) and paces the Lady Broncos with 85 blocks. Nesselhuf has 797 set assists to lead the WAC, 145 digs and 64 blocks. Harden has 155 kills and 58 blocks and is ninth in the WAC with a 29.9% kill percentage in her second season. Senior Lauren Hamm is fourth on the team with 18 service aces, fifth with 124 digs and fifth with 120 assists.
But there's more to the story. Garus has recruited some outstanding young talent that is beginning to make their mark. Sophomore Fiona Jones is third on the team with 167 kills, fifth with 10 aces and third with 153 digs. Junior Elizabeth Griffin is fifth on the Lady Broncos with 95 kills and fifth with 103.5 points. Sophomore Cailin Fellows is sixth with 48 kills. Junior Amanda Remy has 229 digs to lead Boise State (8th in the WAC), 25 set assists (second on the Broncos) and 19 aces (third on the team). Sophomore Kersti Whitney leads not only the team but the WAC with 24 aces, is second with 161 digs and third with 16 assists.
So you have that rare combination of talent, experience and youth that is paying huge dividends this season. Boise State is getting contributions from throughout its lineup and often a different player or group of players stars on a given night. In short, Coach Garus is building depth on the team.
It will take time to rise to the level of four-time national champion Hawai'i. But the Broncos lead the WAC in aces with 107, are second to Hawai'i in hitting percentage (25.3%), assists (12.54 per set) and kills (13.55 per set) and are fourth in the conference in blocks (2.58 per set).
Six of the WAC teams have season records that are .500 or better in a balanced conference from #2 to #9. Boise State has to date enjoyed a fantastic season, but the team will have to continue to improve and be ready each night to transfer the out-of-conference success to an outstanding WAC season. The Broncos host two key conference matches this weekend, going against Nevada Thursday night at 7 and Utah State Saturday afternoon at 3.
The contest with USU should wrap up in plenty of time to get to the Homecoming football game with Toledo so make it a doubleheader of outstanding Bronco action!