Most seasons, the first volleyball practice is a get-to-know-you affair for Wichita State’s players. The freshmen are new. Most of the returners scattered for the summer.
This August, the first practice will feel more like a reunion. Six freshmen took summer classes and joined the returning players on campus. The Shockers worked with strength coach Adam Ringler and played pickup volleyball twice a week in Koch Arena. In past summers, there often weren’t enough Shockers around to play a 6-on-6 game.
“Open gym is huge,” senior outside hitter Emily Adney said. “It’s nice to get bodies kind of ready to go and familiar with everyone. I remember when I came here for the first day of practice, I was so nervous.”
Coach Chris Lamb said volleyball is catching up to other sports. More and more athletes, especially those who play for high-level club teams, expect to show up in the summer and start preparing. Freshman Ashlyn Driskill, an outside hitter, graduated from Valley Center early and spent the spring semester at WSU, following the lead of former setter Mary Elizabeth Hooper.
“It’s new that so many were able to come to summer school,” Lamb said. “That’s kind of the new volleyball thing. Football’s been doing it forever. Volleyball is headed in that direction.”
The timing is good for the Shockers. Lamb must replace Hooper, a four-year starter, Missouri Valley Conference Defensive Player of the Year Camri Zwiesler, an outside hitter, and libero Sarah Waldorf. He will need contributions from newcomers such as right-side Katy Dudzinski and sophomore middle Kristin Byers, a transfer from Mississippi State who came to WSU in January.
“There is, probably, an opportunity for a new person to be a starter,” Lamb said. “These girls were excited to do it. They were ready for college.”
WSU is never in a postion to ease into the season if it expects to accumulate wins to bolster its NCAA Tournament resume. The Shockers open the season on Aug. 24 with a tournament at Northern Illinois. WSU plays New Mexico State, last season’s Western Athletic Conference runner-up, in its first match.
“Everyone is getting along so well, which is nice going into everything,” Adney said. “We kind of know the ropes already.”
• The Volleyball 101 dinner is at 5:30 p.m. Aug. 18 at Koch Arena. Cost is $40.
• WSU’s volleyball team will hold four Little Spikers and two Junior Spikers clinics beginning Aug. 6 at Koch Arena. For information call 316-978-5549.
Headed east — Former WSU center Garrett Stutz will play for Anyang KGC in South Korea. KGC plays in the Korean Basketball League, which begins play in October.
KGC is the defending KBL champions.
Stutz played for three teams in the recent NBA summer leagues: Brooklyn, Minnesota and Boston.
Former Missouri State star Kyle Weems, from Topeka, will play with the Telekom Baskets in Germany.
Summer stars — Summer baseball will wrap up soon and several Shockers had strong efforts.
First baseman Casey Gillaspie finished second in the Northwoods League Home Run Derby on Tuesday in Madison, Wis. Gillaspie hit six in the final round and 14 total, finishing behind Trevor Podratz’s 23. He also played in the All-Star game and hit .331 with a .533 slugging percentage and nine home runs through 44 games.
Pitcher Albert Minnis earned a spot in the California Collegiate League All-Star roster. Through 21 appearances with Santa Barbara, Minnis complied a 2.22 ERA with 30 strikeouts and six walks. Fellow reliever T.J. McGreevy is also pitching well, with a 0.90 ERA, 17 strikeouts and four walks in 14 appearances.
Infielder Erik Harbutz, with the Mat-Su Miners, played in the Alaska Baseball League All-Star Game. He is hitting .261 with three home runs through 22 games.
Worth noting — Track and field coach Steve Rainbolt will start his fall Shocker Fitness session on Aug. 6. Cost for the 10-week session is $55. For information call 316-978-5543.… ESPN revealed brackets for its 11 men’s basketball tournaments last week. Drake will play California in the Anaheim Classic on Nov. 22. Creighton, in a game of contrasts, plays Wisconsin in the Las Vegas Invitational on Nov. 23. Indiana State opens the Diamond Head Classic against Mississippi on Dec. 22.