Broncos Open Season Versus No. 14 Washington
Boise State ready for fifth annual Northwest Challenge in Seattle.

Northwest Challenge

Seattle, Wash. · Alaska Airlines Arena

Friday, August 24
Portland State vs. Gonzaga at 5:30 p.m. (MT)
Boise State
 at No. 14 Washington at 8:00 p.m. (MT)

Saturday, August 25  
Boise State vs. Portland State at 11:00 a.m. (MT)
Gonzaga at Washington at 1:00 p.m. (MT)

Boise State vs. Gonzaga 5:30 p.m. (MT)
Portland State at Washington at 8:00 p.m. (MT)

Live Stats will be available on Washington's website:

What's Happening This Week

Boise State volleyball opens the new campaign on the road this Friday in Seattle, Wash., at the fifth annual Northwest Challenge.

The opener will not be easy for the Broncos who drew the host team and 14th-ranked (AVCA) Washington Huskies in the second match of the day on Friday night, the contest is scheduled to start at 8:00 p.m. (Mountain).

Tournament action continues Saturday when Boise State will play the Big Sky Conference's Portland State Vikings at 11:00 .a.m. (MT), followed by the Gonzaga Bulldogs out of the West Coast Conference at 5:30 p.m. (MT).

The Northwest Challenge features the same foursome each year as the schools rotate hosting the competition. The University of Washington is hosting this year's event at the American Airlines Arena.

Last year's tournament was hosted by Gonzaga in Spokane, Wash., where the Huskies (3-0) won the title followed by the Broncos (2-1) for the second time in two seasons.

Boise State's record in the Northwest Challenge is 4-8 all-time. The blue and orange went 0-3 in the first two years followed by back-to-back 2-1 performances.

At last year's edition in Spokane, Boise State defeated both Gonzaga and Portland State by 3-1 scores respectively, before falling in straight set (3-0) to Washington in the final match.

Scouting the Opponents

No. 14 Washington
The Broncos will have their hands full when facing Washington Friday night in Seattle, the Huskies are ranked 14th nationally by the American Volleyball Coaches Association (AVCA) and are picked to place fifth in the tough Pac-12 Conference.

Washington returns three starters and eight letterwinners from last year's squad that went 24-8 overall and 15-7 in conference to place tied for fourth.

After the Broncos won the first five meetings in the series from 1983-86, the Huskies have come back to win the last eight contests and take a 8-5 advantage in the series all-time.

The UW is 4-0 in the last four years versus Boise State at the Northwest Challenge, including a 3-0 victory last year.

Portland State
The competition does not get much easier for the Broncos against Portland State Saturday morning. The Vikings are a perennial power in the Big Sky Conference and are picked to battle for the championship again this year, selected second in the coaches poll.

Portland State returns six starters (minus the libero) and 11 letterwinners from 2011's team that recorded an 18-13 mark overall and went 12-4 in league play to finished second.

The Vikings have dominated the series with Boise State holding a 15-4 advantage. The series dates back to 1982 when both schools were in the Mountain West Athletic Conference.

However, after dropping the first two meetings in the Northwest Challenge in 2008 and 2009, the Broncos have gained some momentum in the series winning the last two encounters 3-2 in 2010 and 3-1 in Spokane last season. 

The weekend concludes for Boise State Saturday afternoon when they face the Gonzaga Bulldogs who are picked to finish last in the West Coast Conference race in 2012.

The Bulldogs welcomed back four starters and seven letterwinners from a team that played to a 8-19 record overall and a 2-14 mark to place ninth in the West Coast Conference during 2011.

Boise State holds a 16-10 lead in the all-time series which goes back to the days when both schools were in the Interstate League 1979-81.

Like the Portland State series, the Broncos lost the first two matches played in the Northwest Challenge (2008-09) to Gonzaga, before turning the recent series around winning the last two seasons by scores of 3-0 (2010) and 3-1 (2011). 

Boise State Quick Notes

Notes on Season Openers
Boise State is 17-16 in season openers since the 1979 campaign.

It is going to be hard Friday in Seattle against No. 14 Washington, but the Broncos are looking to snap a four-match losing streak in openers.

They lost 3-2 to Pacific last year in the Crystal Inn Thunderbird Invitational at Cedar City, Utah.

Boise State's last victory in a season opener came at home in 2007 when the Broncos defeated UT San Antonio in straight sets during the Bronco Invitational.

The Broncos are 3-7 in the last 10 openers and are 9-4 all-time when opening at home.

Notes on What's Back in 2012
Boise State returns four starters in Liz Harden (Sr., outside hitter), Brittany Reardon (R-So., middle blocker), Fiona Jones (Sr., outside hitter) and Kersti Whitney (Sr., libero).

Harden (313) and Jones (194) finished first and fifth respectively on the team last season in kills, Reardon (176) was sixth, while Stevens (78) was seventh.

Jones was fifth in kills but played only two-thirds of the year before suffering a season ending injury.

In 2011, Reardon led the Mountain West and finished ranked 31st nationally in hitting percent with Boise State's second-best individual performance all-time at .355 percent.

In addition to the four starters back four other returners earned at least one start apiece led by Leah Stevens (10), Casey Rose (6), Taylor Murphey (5) and Kristyn Kirschenman (1).

All eight of the returning Broncos who played in 2011 started at some point during the season.

Harden led Boise State last year in scoring with 341 points, 10th most all-time. The senior is currently ranked sixth in the Bronco career point list with 831. The point statistic is since the inception of rally scoring in 2001.

Notes on What's New in 2012
Two transfers joined the Broncos last January in sophomore outside hitter Alyssa Gammel (Virginia Tech) and Aly Duffin (Georgia Southern), a sophomore middle blocker. Both are expected to play key roles this season.

Three freshmen joined the team in August:  Sarah Baugh (Poulsbo, Wash.) a setter, Jackie Pyles (White Lake, Mich.) a defensive specialist and Janessa White (Salem, Ore.) who plays outside hitter.

Two Boise State alumni have joined the Bronco staff since January. Alisha Young (2007-10) initially joined the group last January as the Director of Operations / Video Coordinator before being promoted this summer to the second assistant position. Meanwhile, Breann (Nesselhuf) Crowell, a senior last fall, joined the staff this August as a graduate manager.

Notes on the Mountain West
The Broncos are in their second year of membership in the Mountain West Conference (MW) going 6-8 and tying for fifth-place in 2011.

Boise State was picked by the league's coaches to place seventh out of nine teams in the 2012 MW race.

The league welcomed Fresno State and Nevada into membership this summer, while TCU left the conference.

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