Jordan Hinkle started volleyball late in life, so she always felt a little behind. This fall, Wichita State fans can see if she caught up.
The Shockers start two-a-day practices Wednesday and coach Chris Lamb will watch his liberos and defensive specialists with particular interest. He knows he can count on senior Jackie Church, and then he needs at least one more player to emerge from a group of four players with little college experience.
Lamb is making it clear to his littles that he wants their performance to move closer to that of Northern Iowas, the team that has won the past three Missouri Valley Conference titles.
We want to be the backbone of this team, Church said. We dont want him to have to always come to us. We want to be able to say weve done our job.
Lamb saw progress in the spring. He keeps statistics on a variety of defensive and passing categories and knows the Shockers didnt meet his standard in 2011, even though they went 21-11 and played in the NCAA Tournament for a fifth straight time.
We want to believe our liberos will be better, Lamb said. Weve got an army of them. We want to return to the top-25 level of competition, like UNI. We werent getting the accuracy. We werent getting the digs. We werent getting the stops.
In practices, Lamb wants to see who takes the spot behind Church, who has played in almost every match, usually as the defensive specialist, the past three seasons.
Sophomore Kelsey Banwart might be the top candidate after she played in 27 matches last season. Gaby Urban redshirted last year. Freshman Dani Mostrom is ready to play, Lamb said. Then there is Hinkle, a sophomore who played little last season. She impressed Lamb with her work ethic and hustle in the spring.
Amazing how hard she is playing, but, mainly, just how much better she has gotten, Lamb said. She is so much better than she was in the fall with her accuracy.
Hinkle transferred to WSU last year from Central Michigan, another time in which she got a late start. She didnt play competitive volleyball until freshman year at Rosemount (Minn.) High. As a youngster, she devoted much of her time to dancing. When she switched to volleyball, she knew she needed to make up for lost time.
I came in as a transfer feeling completely behind, she said. My dad has always told me that hard work will get you farther than talent. I love being in the gym.
Her family provides plenty of good influences for hard work. Todd, her father, played small-college basketball. Her grandfather played football at Nebraska.
I started working really hard my junior year, when I knew I wanted to play college ball, she said. Ive always been athletic, but Ive had to work really hard for my progress.
Freshman sidelined with injury Lamb had high hopes for freshman right-side hitter Katy Dudzinski. He expected her to challenge for a starting spot this season.
But Dudzinski, from Elburn, Ill., broke her right foot recently in a non-volleyball accident and will sit out this season.
It feels like, because of all the planning from an offensive-lineup standpoint, going to Disneyland and finding out half the rides are closed, Lamb said.