Katie Reilly is the freshman attacker without a cool nickname on Wichita State’s volleyball team. MaryAshton Floyd goes by “MASH.” Ashlyn Driskill is “Killer.”
“I’m lame,” Reilly said. “They just say ‘Katiereilly’, like squeezed together.”
Katiereilly may earn a nickname before this season is finished. With junior right-side Sam Sanders questionable because of a shoulder injury, the roles for Reilly and best friend and fellow freshman Floyd may grow signficantly. WSU (18-7, 11-4 Missouri Valley Conference) plays Missouri State (15-12, 9-6) on Friday at Koch Arena.
Sanders practiced Thursday, but coach Chris Lamb doesn’t view her as 100-percent healthy and won’t know if she can play until Friday. Sanders didn’t play in last weekend’s matches, meaning Reilly did. With more time to prepare without Sanders, Lamb said both Reilly and Floyd are on tap for tonight on the front row.
“We’re trying everybody everywhere and seeing what looks good,” Lamb said. “It’s triage.”
Repairing the lineup likely starts with Reilly, who played in every set last weekend against Indiana State and Illinois State. She totaled 10 kills and 11 digs in the two matches, highlighted by hitting .235 in Saturday’s loss to Illinois State.
WSU didn’t know Sanders couldn’t play until the day of the Indiana State match. Reilly, who has played in 17 matches this season, is used to getting ready on short notice. So is Floyd, who figured on redshirting until Lamb told her to serve during WSU’s second match of the season. Lamb is well-known for surprising a player with a substitution.
“He is always telling us, ‘You never know what is going to happen,’ ” Reilly said. “Sometimes it’s like, five seconds, and you’re on the court. We are always ready. The people I stand by (on the bench) we’re always talking … so we’ll know what to do.”
Reilly, from Cypress, Texas, is happy with whatever role Lamb assigns her as a freshman. She understands it is time to learn and listen. Regardless of her playing time, she wants to be upbeat and energetic in practices.
“At the beginning of the year, he said ‘Everything is contagious,’ ” Reilly said. “Our job is to energize (the veterans), because they’ve been here so long. They have tough days when they’re really trying to focus in. It’s our job as young, spirited kids to try and help them.”
Reilly and Floyd consider themselves loud and positive, in the practice gym and on the bench during games.
“We actually call ourselves ‘Positive Patricia,’ ” Floyd said. “She’s Tricia. I’m Pat.”
Lamb notices. Reilly has had several good moments this season. She recorded 10 kills and a .310 attack percentage in her first match, a loss to New Mexico State. She had seven kills against BYU and seven more, with a .462 attack percentage, against Auburn.
“There’s not a coach in America who wouldn’t want to hang out with Katie Reilly,” Lamb said. “She can’t wait to learn. All energy all the time. Plays hard all the time. She’s as good an athlete as we have.”
Worth noting — The Shockers defeated Missouri State 3-1 in mid-October, recording seven service aces to MSU’s one. Sanders led WSU with 15 kills and middle Ashley Andrade added 12 and a .455 attack percentage. Andrea Beaty led the Bears with 14 kills.… WSU, No. 42 in the NCAA’s power ranking (RPI) can earn a top-100 victory against No. 86 MSU. The Shockers are 6-5 against the top 100.… Shocker setter Chelsey Feekin leads the nation with an attack percentage of .462.… MSU’s Kaitlin Jaeger ranks fourth in the MVC with a .322 attack percentage.