LAWRENCE — While Wichita State volleyball was making its sixth straight NCAA Tournament appearance, this year’s team is full of youth and inexperience. With only two seniors, players admitted to being nervous before Friday’s first-round match.
Wichita State then seemed overmatched against an Arkansas team making its first NCAA appearance since 2006. The Shockers trailed two sets to none.
“I think we kind of had our tails between our legs there and we knew that we had to come out and fight this team,” WSU’s Elizabeth Field said. “… We just went in there telling each other we can do this. We have just got to have our minds right.”
The Shockers rallied to win the final three sets — including the final five points of the fifth set — to advance to Saturday’s second round with scores of 16-25 25-27, 25-17, 25-23 and 15-10.
Wichita State (23-9) will meet Kansas, which posted a 3-1 victory against Cleveland State, at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.
The 3-2 victory was WSU’s fourth five-set win of the year, but the first after trailing 2-0.
“To be down 2-0 and come back and beat a team like that was amazing,” Shocker coach Chris Lamb said. “More specifically. I think 40 percent of my game plan, we threw out the door on defense. We played some cat and mouse, which was great for us. We do that all the time, so we felt comfortable doing that.”
WSU was led by junior middle blocker Ashley Andrade, who set school NCAA Tournament records with a personal-best and team season-best 23 kills and a .564 hitting percentage.
“If I have a middle attacker who can lead the match in points scored, a lot of things have to be working well for that to happen,” Lamb said.
Andrade registered 14 of her 23 game-high kills after the first two sets. On 39 attacks, she committed just one error. She also finished the night was a game-high five blocks.
The Shockers won the last three sets by finishing strong in each set. WSU led 19-17 in the third set and closed out the Razorbacks by scoring the last six points to win 25-17.
Arkansas appeared to have momentum in the fourth set, rallying from a 16-11 deficit to tie the match at 18. Once again, WSU finished strong, scoring the final three points to post a 25-23 win.
The deciding fifth set was back and forth and the teams were tied at 10 before WSU ran off the final five points of the match to win 15-10.
Wichita State is in the second round of the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 2009.
“I am excited,” Lamb said. “It is great for Kansas. It is great for Wichita State. It is great that our fans can still watch us play. It should be fun.”
Kansas wins in four — KU reached the second round by beating Cleveland State 17-25, 25-10, 25-16, 25-18.
The Jayhawks rallied after dropping the first set. Sophomore outside hitter Sara McClinton led KU by making 14 of her 16 kills in the final two sets.
“I’m glad we got through the first set and moved onto the second one,” KU coach Ray Bechard said. “You never know how a team’s going to react in a situation like that. Obviously, it wasn’t our best opening-set performance, but I think what’s important is how we responded after that. We settled down a little bit and got things back under control.”