Wichita State won its 20th consecutive match against Bradley on Saturday at Koch Arena. That dominance didn’t play out until the third set, after the Shockers rallied to win the first two sets.
WSU swept the Braves (25-21, 25-23, 25-12), its 16th sweep in that win streak. It didn’t come easy at all on the heels of Friday’s disappointing loss to Northern Iowa.
“Once we start feeling good about ourselves, we got going,” WSU junior Sam Sanders said. “All year we’ve had slow starts and that’s a big thing we need to work on, especially this late in this season. We have to win game 1, especially against teams like Bradley.”
The Shockers (17-6, 10-3 Missouri Valley Conference) trailed 19-12 in the first set. They trailed 20-16 and 23-19 in the second. They rallied in both, demonstrating how an experienced team used to success can take advantage of mistakes.
“If you do this long enough, you start to believe in that,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “We went through that as a program at one point, where you don’t expect to win.”
The Shockers dominated the final set, rushing to an 11-4 lead. They hit .520 in the third set while holding the Braves (8-16, 2-11) to an .000 attack percentage. WSU’s defense improved each set, largely by limiting Bradley outside hitters Alise Tupuritis and Courtney Keefe.
“All we really did was start to follow the scouting report,” Lamb said. “You saw their hitting percentage plummet after a couple of timeouts and some people focusing on what we were trying to do as a team.”
Sanders led WSU’s offense with another big game — 13 kills and a .440 attack percentage. She recorded 12 kills and a .423 attack percentage on Friday, showing that WSU’s offense behind the setter is improving.
“It’s something we’ve been putting a lot of work into,” setter Chelsey Feekin said. “She’s getting it done. We’re getting more comfortable playing together.”
WSU almost gave away the first set, until the serving of Emily Adney and Jackie Church knocked Bradley off course. The Shockers trailed 19-12 when Adney’s kill gave her the ball at the service line. She targeted Bradley’s Lea Sack in the back corner and disrupted Bradley’s flow. Adney’s ace cut the lead to 19-16 and forced a timeout. After another Bradley timeout, Feekin slammed in an overpass by Sack to give WSU a 20-19 lead.
Bradley then collapsed with a service error and two attack errors to put WSU up 23-20. Kills by Ashlyn Driskill and Sanders completed WSU’s rally.
The second set played out much the same way. Bradley led 19-15 and 23-19. The Shockers, with Sanders serving, scored the final five points of the match and won it on an ace by Sanders that the Braves let fall into an open spot.
Worth noting — Emily Stockman, Mary Elizabeth Hooper, Angela Jakubov, Kelly Broussard and Sarah McGee were among the alumni who returned for the program’s alumni night. . . The Shockers got some help from Missouri State, which defeated Northern Iowa 3-1 on Saturday. WSU ends the weekend one game behind the second-place Panthers (11-2 MVC). Creighton (11-1) took over sole possession of first with a 3-1 win over Southern Illinois.