Some seasons, senior night is a celebration. Some seasons, it feels like a finale.
This season, Wichita State’s volleyball senior night feels odd, at least until after Saturday night’s match against Illinois State. The Missouri Valley Conference schedule continues for two more weekends after this, so there is plenty of volleyball remaining. WSU plays host to the MVC Tournament, so the seniors are guaranteed at least one more home match.
Most important, the second-place Shockers (21-6, 10-3 MVC) are locked in a tight race for the conference lead and need wins over Indiana State (11-13, 4-8) on Friday and third-place Illinois State (16-8, 9-3) on Saturday. This is not one of those seasons WSU has the title locked up or is playing a cellar dweller after the seniors take their bows and watch their highlight video.
“This kind of weird weekend that we’re faced with always poses possible problems,” senior middle Elizabeth Field said. “We’re very excited about it, but at the same time we have Illinois State that night, and Indiana State (Friday). Two matches we need to clinch.”
The Shockers are trying to keep pace with first-place Northern Iowa (18-6, 10-2), which plays Southern Illinois and Evansville at home this weekend.
“We’re just really focused on the matches, and (senior night) is just a little special extra,” senior setter Chelsey Feekin said. “It’s weird having it be senior night because it’s so early in conference.”
Saturday’s match could decide the second and third seeds for the MVC Tournament. The top two seeds earn a spot in the semifinals. The third seed must play in the opening round on Thanksgiving. Illinois State defeated the Shockers 3-1 in early October. The Redbirds won the first set 25-14 and took the match with 25-18 wins in sets three and four. In all three of its MVC losses, WSU dropped the first set.
“Our team has had a few bad starts to matches, and it seems to me it’s about energy,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “We’ve got to snap out of that. They all shake their head when they think that everybody is out there giving us their best and trying to knock us off. We’ve got to respond from the first bell.”
The Redbirds limited WSU’s offense in the first meeting, holding the Shockers to a .127 attack percentage. Libero Emily Orrick recorded 30 digs.
“They had a ton of digs at left-back, and that’s kind of on us because we kept hitting it over there,” Feekin said. “We have more back-up plans this go-around and we’re not so focused on one area to be able to win from.”
The Shockers totaled 22 attack errors in their losses at Illinois State, a product of the Redbirds winning the serving game and disrupting WSU’s offense. The Redbirds lead the MVC by holding opponents to a .141 attack percentage and are second at blocks at 2.50 a set.
“We need to be able to take care of the ball in less-than-perfect situations,” Field said. “Being able to hit bad balls. When things go wrong, taking care of the ball in a way that’s going to benefit us, rather dispatching the ball out of bounds or getting stuffed all the time.”
Worth noting — WSU middle Ashley Andrade leads the MVC in attack percentage (.461) with Field second at .331.… Illinois State has lost three of four matches entering the weekend, including a 3-0 decision against Loyola at home Saturday.… WSU has won 23 straight matches against Indiana State, including a sweep earlier this season.… WSU enters the weekend No. 14 nationally in attendance with an average of 2,593 fans.