Things are lining up on the side of the Wichita State volleyball team, winners of four of its last five matches.
The Shockers are coming off a big non-conference win — 3-2 over Louisville on Tuesday night.
They are in second place in the Missouri Valley Conference — one game behind Illinois State.
And, most importantly, they have their next five matches at home, beginning Friday when WSU (17-4, 6-1 MVC) is host to Bradley (10-6, 4-3) at 6 p.m.
“Five straight home games, I’ll take that, I’ll take getting to sleep in my own bed,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “Bradley is getting better, they pulled off an amazing win at Southern Illinois, which is a place people don’t win at. All I’m thinking about is the Bradley Braves.”
Bradley bounced back from back-to-back sweeps at the hands of Illinois State and third-place Northern Iowa with a sweep of Loyola behind 13 kills from 6-foot-1 middle blocker Amy Angelos. Angelos leads the Braves with 210 kills — 3.5 per set.
Sam Sanders led the Shockers with 16 kills in the win over Louisville.
“You’ve got to teach them to defend something, to tell them that their hard work is worth defending, that their sweat and tears and commitment are worth defending,” Lamb said. “And that was what I was teaching them when we had nothing … now, 14 years later, we’ve got a lot to defend around here.
“This is our house and people come in here, we’re gonna defend it. As corny as that might sound.”
Loyola (8-11, 3-4) makes its first trip to Koch Arena as an MVC member on Saturday. The Ramblers, in their first season as a conference member, swept Drake and Evansville and defeated Indiana State 3-1. Third-year coach Chris Muscat improved his team’s record from 4-22 in 2011 to 17-12 last season. Loyola won Horizon League titles in 2000, 2004 and 2005.
Muscat is working his way through the first half of the conference schedule with great interest. While the Horizon League provided good competition, he recognizes the MVC is deeper and regularly produces teams capable of earning NCAA at-large bids.
“We're finding that in the MVC, there's a lot more varied play, different systems,” he said. “We’re seeing teams that can win by setting on the back side and right side. In the Horizon, it was a left-side dominated conference.”
Muscat came to Loyola after two seasons as an assistant at Missouri. He is starting to pull in some of the Chicago-area’s talent. Freshman Morgan Reardon, from Joliet, Ill., is tied for third in the MVC with an average of 3.63 kills a set. Sophomore Kelly Feigh, from Plainfield, Ill., leads the Valley with an average of 0.35 aces a set.
“We feel like we've taken some pretty good steps with back-to-back very talented recruiting classes,” Muscat said. “Sometimes it takes some experience at the college level.”