LAWRENCE — For the first time in school history, Wichita State is heading to the round of 16 of the NCAA women’s volleyball tournament. And en route, the Shockers posted two come-from-behind victories on consecutive nights.
A 23-25, 25-16, 25-19, 25-21 victory over host and tournament 11-seed Kansas on Saturday night ended a weekend of comebacks.
“Honestly, how many mid-majors are in the Sweet 16 ever?” WSU coach Chris Lamb asked after defeating Arkansas from the SEC on Friday and Kansas from the Big 12. “We think we made quite a statement today and these things don’t come around every dayn so we are going to enjoy it.
Friday night, Wichita State dug itself a hole, trailing Arkansas 2-0 after the first two sets before rallying for a 3-2 victory. Saturday, the Shockers dropped the first set to Kansas 25-23, but responded by winning the next three.
“We were so excited after (the Arkansas) game for our team to show that fight and come back — that carried into today,” senior libero Jackie Church after the win against Kansas. “Our fight was there.”
The victory advanced Wichita State to Friday’s regional semifinal in Austin. WSU will face No. 6-seed USC. It marks the first time the Shockers have advanced past the second round in their seven-year NCAA Tournament history.
“I have no problem saying we are playing with house money,” Lamb said. “The Shockers will be loose and we will go play the Trojans and I can’t wait. We have now taken that next step. We deserve to have a great week of practice and we will. We will have a game plan and we are going to go out there and give it everything we have.”
For the second straight night, junior middle blocker Ashley Andrade was spectacular. She finished the night with a game-high tying 18 kills and game-best nine blocks.
And while Andrade played well all night, senior outside hitter Emily Adney closed the match with three of Wichita State’s final four points. After her final kill, which clinched the match, the Shockers celebrated on the court and in the stands with their families and more than 500 Shocker fans.
After the first-set disappointment, WSU used a dominating performance on the front line to turn a 7-7 tie into a 22-10 lead and a second-set victory. WSU won the third set by scoring seven of the final eight points.
The fourth and final set saw the teams battle back and forth before WSU pulled ahead 17-11. KU rallied within 20-19 late, but the Shockers scored three straight points and five of the night’s final seven points to quiet the crowd of 4,478 in Allen Fieldhouse.
Now the Shockers look ahead after their historical victory.
“We want to be big game hunters,” Lamb said about facing a great USC team. “You want to have that mentality. The girls will feel a lot better playing USC than heading to Terre Haute in November in conference. This is fun and exciting. We are pretty good this way. We play a lot of these teams every spring and we play them tough and we have a blast doing it.”
Kansas, which was also looking for its first trip to the round of 16, finished its season 26-7.