Obliteration by Stanford left few smiles in Pullman, at least until Cougars coach Mike Leach saw “The Popcorn Guy” video. After 55-17, take what you can get.

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday recovered enough from his battering against Stanford to work out Sunday. / Washington State athletics

Cougars quarterback Connor Halliday recovered enough from his battering against Stanford to work out Sunday. / Washington State athletics

Zack Menchel, Murrow News Services

PULLMAN — Bright spots for the Cougars were few and far between in the 55-17 shellacking at the hands of No. 5 Stanford in the annual Seattle Game. The undefeated Cardinal excelled in all three phases – they outgained WSU 560-373 — and made plenty of big plays early to bury a foe that simply did not look ready for prime time in front of an announced 40,095 fans on a blustery Saturday evening at CenturyLink Field.

Late-game showers and a fierce passing attack led by Stanford quarterback Kevin Hogan (16 of 25, 286 yards, three TD’s) and wide receiver Devon Cajuste (four catches, 115 yards, two TD’s) crippled any chance of an upset.

Halliday hurting

Quarterback Connor Halliday played well until the third quarter, when he released a deep ball down the left sideline before a Stanford defender slammed him to the ground.

The pass was picked easily by safety Jordan Richards, who returned it 30 yards for a touchdown. Halliday limped off the field. He tried to return the next series but was unable to walk, so trainers escorted him to the locker room.

Coach Mike Leach doesn’t discuss injuries, but Halliday was able to practice with the team Sunday night.

During his press conference Monday, Leach refrained from naming a starter for Saturday but praised Halliday’s desire to get back on the field.

“I think Connor is tough to begin with and I actually expected him to be at practice,” he said.

Apodaca waits

Redshirt freshman Austin Apodaca replaced Halliday and hiccupped early as a screen pass intended for wide receiver Dom Williams was intercepted by linebacker Trent Murphy and taken 38 yards for the score.

Apodaca recovered however, finishing with 15 completions on 29 attempts for 138 yards and the first two touchdowns of his career.

If Apodaca plays against Cal (1 p.m., Fox Sports One), Leach seems to have no reservations.

“Austin’s leadership qualities are good. I think they started last spring where he worked hard and developed his rapport with the team,” said Leach. “He went out there and did an admirable job. I think everyone respected his efforts.”

First-blowout blues

Despite the loss, a prevailing narrative being echoed in Pullman Monday by players and staff alike is to learn from the loss, not dwell on it.

“We just weren’t playing our game, we weren’t playing Cougar football,” said senior safety Deone Bucannon. “We went out, addressed it on film, changed some things, and got better.”

Senior center Elliott Bosch repeatedthat sentiment: “The whole team was upset but we came in and made the corrections on film. It definitely fuels the team and we’ve got to put it behind us because it’s all about how we respond and come back the next week.”

Little protection

Although Stanford had just two sacks, there was a concentrated effort to rush and hit WSU’s quarterbacks in the pocket, which led to errant passes and miscues.

“When our QB gets hit it’s a reflection on us that we didn’t get our job done,” said Bosch. “It’s going to happen, playing a good defensive line such as Stanford’s, but I think we could have finished a little better.”

When asked to clarify the offensive line’s struggles as a unit, Bosch said, “We did some good things but had some breakdowns at crucial moments up front. It was always one badly missed block getting our QB hit and ending the drive.”

Protege faces mentor

Leach will see a familiar face patrolling the opposing sidelines for the Golden Bears when the Cougars take the field in Berkeley.

Head coach Sonny Dykes worked under Leach for eight years and at two universities, Kentucky and Texas Tech. Leach said the two are on friendly terms and speak with each other at coaching functions.

“We go way back. He was my graduate assistant at Kentucky and I hired him at Texas Tech so we spent a good amount of time together,” Leach said.

Asked about Dykes joining the Pac-12 ranks this year after three seasons of head coaching experience at Louisiana Tech, Leach said, “I was excited for him, as he got a great opportunity. He did a good job at over at Louisiana Tech so I know he’ll do well.”

Popcorn guy

Upon entering his press conference Monday, Leach had not seen the now-infamous “Popcorn Guy” video in which a clearly fed-up Cougars fan in the stands was caught by television cameras as he poured a bag of popcorn all over himself. It already has a quarter-million views on YouTube.

Leach was shown the video by a member of the media and playfully remarked, “That guy is awesome. I think I kind of felt the same way at the end of that game. His technique was good.

“My wife and daughter will sometimes hold contests where they throw M&Ms up in the air and field it with their mouths, but I think this guy could give either one of them a run for their money.”


WSU Tennis Coach Lisa Hart Values Success in all Phases of Life

Original: Tennis coach values success in all phases of life

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Published 1/30/2013 6:00:00 AM

Comments (1)

In order to thrive as a student athlete, one must seek excellence in all aspects of life, both on the court and off.

Perhaps no one realizes this better than WSU Women’s Tennis Head Coach Lisa Hart who successfully turned her competitive and academic career into a decade-long coaching tenure with the Cougars.

Hart first picked up a racket at around six or seven years old. She fell in love with the sport after her brother, Brian, let her tag along to play tennis.

Hart hit her stride at Sunnyside High School where she became a three-time State champion with All-American honors during her sophomore season.

She played tennis collegiately at Nebraska where she was the 1995 Big Eight Freshman of the Year, a two-time all-conference team selection, and ultimately became one of the school’s winningest women’s tennis players.

Her 74 career singles victories as a senior earned her No. 3 on the school’s career victories record board. She went on to win the Big 12 Conference’s No. 2 singles title.

In addition to her impressive playing statistics, she received the Intercollegiate Tennis Association’s (ITA)Cissie Learie Sportsmanship Award for the Central Region and the Arthur Ashe Sportsmanship and Leadership Award during her time at Nebraska.

Hart graduated from Nebraska with a bachelor’s degree in elementary education and earned a master’s in education with an emphasis in physical education and sports studies.

Hart knew that coaching tennis was precisely what she wanted to do to make the most of her experience and education.

“I love teaching and coaching involves a great deal of it,” she said. “Coaching allowed me to combine the best of both worlds in my love and passion for both the sport of tennis and teaching.”

Hart was also an exemplary student, earning academic all-conference selections three times and first-team academic All-Big 12 honors her senior year.

Leading by example, Hart makes sure her players realize their own academic potential and reach their on-court abilities.

In each of the last six seasons, the Cougars have received the ITA All-Academic team award.

“It’s a testament to their work ethic and how much time they put into their work both on the court and in academics,” said Hart. “They strive to not only win matches but to get top marks in the classroom. They’re really good kids.”

Having recorded 109 victories and trips to the NCAA Championships in 2008 and 2012, there’s no denying that Coach Hart has made a positive impact on the Cougar tennis program.

She said she enjoys her job every day and is motivated to shape her young women into great athletes and all-around people.

“I love coaching at the collegiate level because of the progress you can watch and help with. There is so much growing that happens when a young athlete comes in here at 18 and leaves when they’re 22 not only on the court but also in their lives,” Hart said.

Hart says she is really excited about and proud of this year’s squad and sees big things for WSU tennis both now and in the immediate future.

“We expect to make the Sweet 16 this year. We made the round of 32 last year so the team collectively wants to go at least one more step.”

Luckily for Cougar sports fans, Hart seems to be the perfect fit for WSU tennis and looks to be right at home here in Pullman, where she resides with her husband John, and two young children.

She has been revered for her dedication to the community during her time leading the Cougars including being a four-time recipient of the Community Service Award by the United States Tennis Association.

“I grew up in eastern Washington and absolutely love Pullman so I always wanted to get back to this area,”Hart said.”To combine big-time athletics in the Pac-12 with a town like Pullman is quite frankly a dream job.”

No Time to Rest Yet: A Profile on WSU Tennis Sensation Liudmila Vasilieva

Original: No Time to Rest Yet

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Photo courtesy of WSU Athletics (

PULLMAN, Wash. From Russia to Pullman, Liudmila Vasilieva and her tennis racket found a home away from home with the WSU tennis team.

Vasilieva, a senior, will finish her impressive collegiate tennis career this year, but not before playing to reach the NCAA Tournament and break a university record.

With 102 career victories, Vasilieva, known as “Luda” to her teammates and coaches, sits just six singles wins behind WSU’s all-time wins leader Elisabeth Fournier.

Last week against Montana, Vasilieva earned her 100th career singles victory and became just the second WSU tennis player to reach the milestone.

She followed up with singles wins against Nevada and Portland.

Vasilieva attributes her success to never giving up on the court, no matter the odds.

“I’m a fighter, it’s just my nature,” she said. “There is no game like tennis where you can come back from unbelievable deficits only because of your fight.”

She also said setting the bar higher for herself, as well as expecting and preparing for success, has led to positive results she enjoys both on the court and in the classroom.

The chance to make sports history at WSU would be a privilege but Vasilieva will continue to root for future Cougar tennis players in their own endeavors, she said.

“I’m really looking forward to beating this record, but I expect WSU tennis to continue to improve every year,” she said. “If somebody were to beat my record someday I’ll be just as happy knowing that the program has become even better.”

Despite acknowledging that the record is indeed lingering in her mind, Vasilieva said team accomplishments such as WSU’s trip to the NCAA Championships last season mean much more to her and always come before individual accolades.

“It was a great experience to go to the tournament as a team,” she said. “I was so proud of my teammates and to be a part of that winning environment. Those are the memories that will always stay with me.”

Vasilieva came to Pullman from Yekaterinburg, Russia, where she first picked up a tennis racket at around seven or eight years old tagging along with her father.

Making the transition from a big city populated with more than 1,000,000 people to a small college town shocked her at first, but focusing on her studies and tennis career helped to ease her through the move.

“It didn’t make much of a difference because at the end of the day, I don’t have time for all the features big cities offer,” said Vasilieva.

When she first started considering college, not many coaches contacted her and she received few scholarship offers to play in the United States. In fact, she nearly attended a different school altogether until current WSU Head Coach Lisa Hart personally called her to explain the benefits of Pac-12 athletics.

“She made me realize that this was the place where I truly belonged,” Vasilieva said. “I knew I wanted to play Pac-12 tennis and be a part of the family environment where everyone supported each other here.”

And she does not regret her decision for a minute.

“I definitely think Pullman is the perfect place to develop as a student and tennis player,” Vasilieva said. “It has been a great place for me to learn and grow.”

Although Pullman is like a second home, she said she misses her friends, family and food in Russia. She resorts to the CUB’s offerings for lunch only when she doesn’t have the time to cook.

“I was surprised that American food is so unhealthy,” she said. “The healthiest thing in the CUB is Subway, and I just cannot eat that every day, that’s for sure.”

“For me, a sandwich is not a lunch because in Russia we have good dishes like potatoes with fish and soup and things that are healthy for you.”

Still, tennis drives her to work hard here at WSU.

Vasilieva and the Cougar tennis team are optimistic about their chances to return to the NCAA tournament this year and go even further than last season’s finish, which was in the final 32 teams.

“It would be an honor for me as a senior to go back to the tournament and experience it all again with my teammates,” she said. “I feel very confident in all my teammates and I know they’ll fight to the end with me and be the best that they can be.”

After graduating in May, Vasilieva said she hopes to train at a tennis academy in pursuit of a professional career. She will pursue her goal to reach Fournier’s record during this weekend’s matches against Boise State in Pullman.

“I would play tennis 24 hours a day if I could, but for now I must also study,” she said. “When you love something like I love tennis, you don’t need an inspiration to get out and play because I know I will have so much fun doing it.”

Welcome to the family: New WSU Soccer Coach Steve Nugent speaks out

Image courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Image courtesy of WSU Athletics (

Original: Welcome to the Family

Posted: Friday, February 7, 2014 5:00 am

PULLMAN, Wash. From the moment he stepped on the frozen campus grounds last week, soccer Head Coach Steve Nugent could feel the family atmosphere at WSU and knew he wanted to be a part of it.

Growing up in Boston, Nugent was the youngest of eight children. His upbringing combined with the present situation of raising three young boys together with his wife, Janna, have made Nugent into the staunch family man he is today.

Nugent wants the teams he coaches to be bound by the similar core values and principles in that the team is family, and family always comes first.

“First and foremost, it’s team first,” Nugent said. “We’re going to be a team-oriented group of players, and that is going to be our number one priority when we go into any season or any game.”

Nugent said he and his family love all the outdoor activities the West Coast has to offer and were welcomed with open arms from the first interview with WSU Athletic Director Bill Moos all the way to the day he decided to take the job as head coach.

“I’m really happy to be a part of the Cougar family because everything that has happened in such a short amount of time just shows how welcoming this place is,” he said.

Nugent indicated that the best part of his interview process was simply sitting down with random students in the CUB and chatting with them.

“I asked them what it means to be a Cougar, what the environment is like, and wanted to know what brought them here,” Nugent said. “That was really special to me and it didn’t take me long to figure out why this place is so great.”

Nugent brings more than 20 years of coaching experience to the Cougar soccer program at both the collegiate and club levels.

Nugent said the biggest challenge of his new job will be to outwork the 11 other coaches in the Pac-12, but he’s finding it difficult to find any negatives in his new situation.

“When you look at Washington State and the academic reputation of this school, the facilities, the support system, the type of athletes that coaches before me have recruited to this university, it’s setup to be successful without question,” he said.

The Cougars advanced to the NCAA Championship in five of the last six seasons and finished second in the Pac-12 last year while setting or tying 28 team and individual records along the way.

Previous Head Coach Keidane McAlpine departed for USC following the season.

Nugent said his first order of business will be to make his players feel as comfortable as possible with him, which is a process he already initiated with a team dinner earlier this week.

“Some of these players have had to deal with two coaching changes here and had their world turned upside down twice in a real short amount of time,” he said, “so a big priority for me is to interact with them so they feel good about what’s happening.”

Nugent said he was familiar with WSU soccer prior to coming here, and he and McAlpine spoke about the ingredients it took to win both on the field and with his new players.

“We have got to make sure that the players that are here and will continue on at Washington State will utilize the experience that they gained last year from an unbelievable record-breaking season with a lot of firsts,” he said.

Nugent said the staff has been working hard on the recruiting trail in order to bring people who are athletically and academically strong to WSU. His focus will be telling prospective students how awesome WSU is and the direction the team is heading, which he expects to attract “pretty special athletes.”

Nugent said winning a Pac-12 title and getting deeper into the NCAA Tournament is the goal right now, and his mantra on accomplishing that is simple.

“We want to make teams hate it when they come here for a full 90 minutes,” he said. “If we can do that, we’re going to be successful.”

D.J. Shelton Sets Sights On Pro Career

DJ Shelton sets sights on pro career

Zack Menchel, Daily Evergreen Sports

DANNY DEREGO | Daily Evergreen File

DANNY DEREGO | Daily Evergreen File

PULLMAN, Wash. For Washington State senior D.J. Shelton, the road to success has not always been a clear-cut path.

Shelton, bounced around four different California area high schools, redshirted for Cal State Fullerton, and played one season for Citrus College before finally landing on his feet at WSU in 2011. He arrived with just three years of playing eligibility left.

“I’ve overcome a lot of adversity, hate, and negative energy towards me,” said Shelton. “I got past it the only way I knew how, with a lot of grinding and working hard.”

He said coming to WSU allowed him the chance to be featured in a big basketball program whilst letting him get away from Los Angeles to improve his gear and get his mind in the right place.

With just one game remaining in his collegiate playing career, it has become obvious to both Shelton and those around him that he has undergone a great deal of growth in Pullman, both physically and mentally.

“I like the fact that he’s matured on and off the court, and grown up so much as a person the last few years,” said WSU head coach Ken Bone.

“He had a few things personality wise that he needed to work on and there were a couple bumps in the road but all in all, throughout all the programs that I’ve coached over the years, he might be one of the most improved people I’ve seen.”

During a span of three seasons in Pullman, the fifth-year senior added more than 30 pounds of mass to his once slight frame.

In fact, Shelton made an effort to hit the weight room harder than he ever did before after WSU’s first round exit from the Pac-12 Tournament at the hands of interstate rival Washington last season.

Since then, the added weight has made the Cougars big man a force to be reckoned with on the boards. Shelton leads WSU with 261 total boards and his 9.3 rebounds per game is currently good for second in the Pac-12.

“The weight I added has definitely helped me more with rebounding and finishing in the paint this season,” said Shelton.

WSU head coach Ken Bone indicated that the 6’10 Shelton always had the ability to be a great rebounder but it was a specific area he wanted him to focus on.

“He’s quicker than a lot of the other big guys, a good athlete, and we needed him to rebound,” said Bone.

“He’s taken to that role and really embraced it because he’s one of the leading rebounders in the Pac-12 and that’s quite an achievement.”

Shelton has quite the athletic pedigree with multiple members of his family tree experiencing success at both the collegiate and professional level in both football and basketball.

Most notably is his uncle Lonnie Shelton who enjoyed a 10-year career in the NBA with the Knicks, Supersonics, and Cavaliers.

Despite the obvious mark the Shelton family has made on the wide world of sports, D.J. said he doesn’t see any of it as a particular advantage to himself.

“Well, maybe being blessed with good genes helped,” Shelton said with a laugh.

Shelton said his whole family supports him and wishes him well but his greatest sports mentor has actually been his mother.

“I talk to her almost every day and she helps me out and keeps my head in gear,” he said.

“She lets me know when I’m doing bad and also how proud of me she is when I’m doing well and that keeps me going.”

Shelton will play his final game as a Cougar at Beasley Coliseum on Saturday against UCLA.

He indicated that the days when Beasley featured packed stands, especially against U-Dub, were among his most memorable moments in college.

After graduating from the basketball program and WSU as a whole, Shelton said there is absolutely no doubt he’d like to take his talents to the NBA and preferably for his hometown Lakers or Clippers in order to better provide for his family and himself.

If the NBA does not work out, Shelton said he would either get his masters and go to law school or become a sports agent.

“I think WSU has made me into a responsible man and prepared me well in both basketball and life,” said Shelton.

“It’s been a real tough final season but it taught me that things won’t always go my way.”