Kamie Ethridge was surprised to hear that Washington State had never been ranked before.
Now the Cougars coach can add that to the team’s list of accomplishments: They entered The Associated Press women’s college basketball poll at No. 25 on Monday.
“I honestly didn’t know we’d never been ranked,” Ethridge said. “I heard a lot about the lows we’ve experienced and talked to our team about the fact we have no banners. We have one NCAA Tournament appearance in the history of the NCAAs. A big part of our recruiting players was about hanging the first banner and being a first. How exciting it is to be on the way up.”
The ranking comes a day after Washington State beat then-No. 7 Arizona 71-69 in overtime on a buzzer-beating layup by freshman Charlisse Leger-Walker. Washington State (7-1) has won five of its first six Pac-12 games for the first time since the 2013-14 season.
“We’re enjoying the process right now,” said Ethridge, who took over the program in 2018. “The team has had a lot of firsts and this is another one of those. We’ll celebrate and acknowledge and enjoy the feeling.”
While Washington State was enjoying its first ranking, Stanford tightened its grip on the No. 1 spot in the poll. The Cardinal received 29 of the 30 first-place votes from a national media panel. They were followed by Louisville, North Carolina State, UConn and South Carolina. The Wolfpack received the other No. 1 vote.
Not much was expected from the Cougars this season, who were picked last in the Pac-12 preseason polls by the media and coaches.
“The team grabbed hold of being picked 12th and carried that with a big fat chip on their shoulder,” Ethridge said. “They don’t verbalize a lot. … They have a lot of pride about what they can do with this program.”
They’ve definitely opened some eyes with two victories over Top 25 teams after also beating Oregon State last month. It’s the first time since the 2014-15 season that they have two wins over ranked opponents. The lone loss came by four points to Oregon.