Wichita State middle blocker Elizabeth Field hears about Elizabeth Meyers and Jen Ray quite often from coach Chris Lamb.
“All the time,” Field said. “If we can get up to that level of play, then we’re on the right track.”
In Lamb’s mind, Field and Ashley Andrade are on track to equal or surpass Meyers and Ray, WSU’s super-productive middle blockers from 2002-05. Meyers hit .350 for her career, tops for WSU volleyball, with Ray second at .333. Meyers hit .429 in 2005, the best season mark by a Shocker. Ray is second at .385 that same season.
“I’m ready to say I think we’re better,” Lamb said. “We’re better because they’re physically better. We’re better because we do more with them. This pair of middles has got it, and we’ve got a setter who can do it, too.”
WSU (3-3) wraps up its tournament schedule this week at the SMU Classic in Dallas. Field and Andrade, both juniors, are giving the Shockers plenty of points in the middle. Field is hitting .287 with 61 kills and Andrade is hitting .387 with 62. Both credit junior setter Chelsey Feekin with working smoothly with the middles, who normally require quicker sets and near-perfect timing.
Unlike in past seasons, Lamb isn’t complaining about a lack of attempts for his middles. It helps that Field and Andrade complement each other. Field is mobile enough to hit slides. Andrade normally stays closer to the setter and teams with Feekin on quick, short passes that beat the defense.
“(Feekin) has really great vision, with being able to tell if we’re going to meet the ball early or if we’re going to be late to her,” Andrade said. “She is really good at seeing the block, and if we’re blocked, somebody has to be open.”
While Feekin is new to the starting role, she had plenty of time in recent seasons to get comfortable with Andrade and Field. More than most setters, she is comfortable with the risky, quick passes to her middles even when the play isn’t flowing perfectly.
“If she is off the net a little bit, she might still set the middles,” Field said. “She also is really good with transition — she likes running us fast. She trusts us to be careful with the ball and score points as often as we can. She’s a middle setter.”
WSU middles also benefit from Emily Adney on the left, who is always at the top of opponent scouting reports. Adney, a senior, leads WSU with 76 kills. Lamb’s next goal is to find more consistent production from freshmen outside hitters Ashlyn Driskill, Katie Reilly and MaryAshton Floyd. All had their ups and downs in last week’s tournament at Koch Arena, when the Shockers went 1-2 and lost two matches in the fifth set.
“We’ve still got a few holes in our lineup that need to get better,” he said. “Playing good teams expose that and make you know exactly what you’ve got to get better at.”