Roundup: Tardy chose crimson (again) over MLB

PULLMAN -- One thing the Cougs appear to have proven in the preseason is that they are stronger physically, and mentally, than a year ago. The future looks bright but still, WSU lacks proven veterans. One Cougar who is cut from the veteran cloth turned down a contract from an American League baseball team last spring. And it wasn't the first time he chose Wazzu over professional baseball.

No one in the Cougar camp is making any outrageous claims about what the immediate future holds for the 2009 season, and coach Paul Wulff reflected the mood of the team when he pointed out that, ultimately, nothing can be proven one way or another until the games begin.

"Realistically, in the Pac-10, I think we're going to be higher up in the middle of the pack," senior kicker Patrick Rooney said. "We've got everything learned now. Everyone's one matured.

"We're playing really good football right now. I think as long as we play our football and execute what the coaches have got planned for us, there's no reason we shouldn't be able to beat a lot of teams."

Senior defensive end Kevin Kooyman, asked where he expects the Cougars to finish in the Pac-10, said, " I don't want to say anything too high or too low. I just feel we're going to make a great improvement from last year."

The Cougars have not won fewer than five games overall in back-to-back years since going 2-19 in 1969-70.

-- Reading material: WSU senior running back Dwight Tardy, featured in the Kitsap Sun, told the newspaper he was offered a pro baseball contract by the Kansas City Royals last spring -- click HERE.

Former WSU basketball commit David Chadwick wound up at a prep school after turning down numerous scholarships. Chadwick asked to be released from his letter of intent with the Cougars after family friend Tony Bennett left WSU to coach Virginia. Click HERE.

The Philadelphia Daily News detailed the uphill challenge facing ex-Cougar wide receiver Brandon Gibson as a rookie with the Philadelphia Eagles. Click HERE.

A guy's gotta stand up for his team, right? Former Cougar Andy Roof, now a senior offensive guard at Central Washington, told The Associated Press the Wildcats could beat WSU and Washington. Central's No. 2 quarterback, Cole Morgan, is another former Cougar. Central is ranked 14th in NCAA Division II. Click HERE.

-- Volleyball opener: The WSU volleyball team shoots for its 18th win in the past 19 season openers when the Cougars take on UC Davis at 7 p.m. Friday in the Nike Cougar Invitational at Bohler Gym. The four-team tournament concludes Saturday.

The Cougars return nine lettermen, including four starters and senior libero Kelly Hyden, (the all-time WSU digs leader). WSU finished 10-19 overall and 3-15 in the Pac-10 last season under first-year coach Andrew Palileo.

-- Veteran runners: New WSU cross country coach Pete Julian inherited a promising men's team, led by 2008 NCAA meet qualifier Sam Ahlbeck. "We're really deep, perhaps deeper than this program ever has been," Julian said.

On the women's side, senior Lisa Egami holds the WSU women's record in the mile (4:44.92). Alyssa Andrews, the Gatorade Female Cross Country Runner of the Year for Washington high schools last season, won the State 4A title for Gig Harbor. "The women are still not quite where we probably need to be," Julian said. WSU's only "local" appearance comes in the season opener, the Clash of the Inland Northwest. The meet starts at 10 a.m. Saturday, Sept. 5 at Spokane's Mead High School.

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