Wichita State setter Chelsey Feekin leads the nation in attack percentage, an accomplishment akin to a point guard leading the nation in scoring.
Her job is to get teammates kills and make the offense diversified and unpredictable. Her job, more than most setters, is also to score, a balancing act she pulls off admirably this season. Feekin doesn’t need to worry about being selfish, because her teammates don’t mind when she piles up the swings.
“When I was younger I worried about that,” she said. “Now that I’m older, and I’ve been through this often, and I know the girls so well I know they don’t feel that way.”
That confidence doesn’t mean Feekin’s job is simple. With each set, she needs to weigh her chances for success as opposed to using her teammates.
“It’s a big mental game for her,” middle Elizabeth Field said. “She knows what she’s capable of and she knows what we’re capable of. She has a lot of decisions to make in a short period of time.”
WSU (22-9) plays Arkansas (22-9) on Friday in the first round of the NCAA Tournament at Allen Fieldhouse in Lawrence.
Feekin enters the NCAA Tournament with an attack percentage of .449 with 237 kills and 48 errors on 421 attacks. Setters often hit for a high percentage; few record the number of attempts (3.33 per set) to qualify for the NCAA leaders. That combination is usually the province of middle blockers, who normally hit for the highest percentages. Florida State middle Sareea Freeman his second nationally at .447, followed by Minnesota middle Tori Dixon at .444. Statistics continue through the NCAA Tournament and all three teams are in the 64-team bracket.
Coach Chris Lamb loves numbers and those numbers tell him Feekin should swing away without hesitation.
“We want her dumping,” Field said. “If the coaches are telling her to do it, she should be doing it. I’ll tell her ‘All day. All day.’ ”
Lamb says a baseball manager would want Tony Gwynn hitting every inning, if possible.
“If someone is above the number, they need to be busy,” he said. “There’s no magic to that.”
Feekin’s scoring ability means the defense must shadow her with a blocker. That means WSU’s other front-row attackers should often face single blocks. Arkansas coach Robert Pulliza wants to disrupt Feekin by serving tough and taking the WSU offense out of its normal flow.
“She puts a lot of pressure on a defense,” he said. “She’ll find ways to score. You’ve got to focus on serving and try to keep her not as involved.”
Shockers add four — WSU landed four high school seniors during the November signing period, including Newton teammates Emily Hiebert, a setter, and middle blocker Abbie Lehman.
Hiebert earned All-Class 5A and AV-CTL MVP honors. Lehman was selected honorable mention All-Class 5A and first-team All-AV-CTL.
Outside hitter Jennifer Whitledge, an All-Class 4A pick from Tonganoxie, and libero Alyssa Carney, an All-Class 6A pick from Washburn Rural, also signed.