Wichita State barely survived its first weekend, losing one match and improbably rallying to win one in five sets before a sweep. Colorado State cruised through a home tournament without losing a set.
CSU coach Tom Hilbert said the difference was obvious on Thursday night at Koch Arena. His 24th-ranked Rams weren’t ready for a step up in competition. WSU handled it and stopped the Rams 3-1 (25-12, 20-25, 25-20, 25-19) in the first match of the Shocker Volleyball Classic.
“Wichita State is better in every facet of the game than we are,” Hilbert said. “We weren’t tested last week and now we’re being tested.”
In particular, the Shockers (3-1) pointed to a 3-2 win at Northern Illinois, in which they staved off five match points, as paying off Thursday. The Rams (3-1) controlled the second set to even the match and led midway through the third set, building two-point leads three times. The lead never grew larger and the Shockers managed to flip the momentum.
“We were absolutely in the deep water (the first weekend),” WSU coach Chris Lamb. “These guys, they’ve already proven they’ve got it in them. And they did it again.”
Serving turned the match for WSU and Lamb was happy to see his team’s hard work pay off. The Shockers, with Chelsey Feekin serving, caught the Rams in a bad rotation and took full advantage in the third set. Her ace tied it 16-all and the Rams called timeout. After a kill by Emily Adney, Elizabeth Field stuffed in an overpass for an 18-16 lead. Then Feekin banged an ace off Samantha Peters and Hilbert called another timeout.
“We’re bad in (that rotation), and they knew it,” Hilbert said. “That made the difference. A close set like that you’re going to lose if you give up four points or five points in one rotation.”
Feekin, who added another ace in the fourth set, disrupted the Rams offense and took Dana Cranston, their top scoring threat, out of the flow with her serving. The Rams never recovered.
“I was just trying to get my serve in and get to the zone so we could try to get (Cranston) out of their offense,” Feekin said.
After the 25-20 win, the Shockers never trailed in the fourth set. Adney, held to one kill in the first two sets, racked up five in the fourth. Freshman Ashlyn Driskill, who finished with nine for the match, had four in the final set.
“Once we got in that third game people really hit their stride and really started playing well,” Feekin said.
The Shockers served effectively most of the match, totaling eight aces. Lamb is willing to live with 10 service errors when WSU holds a ranked team to a .171 attack percentage. In the first and fourth sets, in particular, WSU kept the Rams out of system with accurate serves. The Rams had one ace and nine errors.
“We’ve been trying to upgrade from the service line,” Lamb said. “If you want to run with the big boys, you better get back there and upgrade. We got a few tonight.”
WSU hit .241 for the match, finished off the Rams by hitting .361 and .310. CSU did a good job keeping the ball off the floor, but couldn’t convert those digs in scoring opportunities.
“They controlled the tempo,” Hilbert said.
WSU held the Rams to a negative-077 attack percentage in the first set. Its aggressive serving disrupted CSU’s offense and the Shockers totaled four aces, three by Adney.
The Rams got organized for the second set and they knocked WSU off center by grabbing a 6-0 lead. The Rams controlled the set with their defense at the net and on the floor, holding WSU to an .021 attack percentage. After totaling eight digs in the first set, the Rams totaled 27 in the second set. They also got Cranston, the Mountain West preseason Player of the Year, into friendly attack spots. She had four kills in the second set.
Elizabeth Field led WSU with 10 kills. Andrade added nine. Feekin handed out 34 assists and recorded six kills and 12 digs.