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Freshman Alyssa Carney settles in with WSU volleyball

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2013, at 6:33 p.m.

Alyssa Carney’s review of “Thor: The Dark World” is short and enthusiastic.

“It was awesome,” she said.

Carney, a freshman defensive specialist for Wichita State’s volleyball team, savors her spare time for movies or reading. College life is busy, especially as the Shockers close out the regular season with two road trips and the postseason nears. Last weekend, Terry Carney, her father and a fellow fan, visited from Topeka and they went to the movie. Her dad is big comic book fan and she’s hooked on that genre, as well. “Good Will Hunting,” however is her favorite.

Carney likes those moments, in part because they help her stay refreshed for volleyball.

“When we’re not in practice, I stay away from it a little bit … time to myself to calm down,” she said. “That way I come in the next day feeling almost kind of fresh and with a clear head. You have to be willing to get better every day, even if you’re tired.”

The Shockers (23-6, 12-3) are in first place in the Missouri Valley Conference as they travel to Loyola (12-15, 6-8) on Thursday and Bradley (12-11, 6-8) on Saturday. If they needed refreshing from the grind, last weekend gave them a boost when Northern Iowa lost Southern Illinois to fall percentage points behind the Shockers. WSU can do no more worse than tie for first if it wins its final three matches.

Carney, a member of the Class 6A all-tournament team as senior at Washburn Rural, has been a growing part of WSU’s success. She recorded a conference-high 13 digs in Saturday’s 3-1 win over Illinois State and has four double-digit dig matches in the past nine.

WSU coach Chris Lamb considered redshirting Carney. Her athletic talent convinced him she could help. He considers her quickness, range and ability to handle fastballs as close to Melissa Granville’s as the best he’s had at WSU, with Kelly Broussard close behind. Skill, however, is a different category to Lamb and that is where Carney needed to progress.

“Carney’s got libero talent,” he said. “She could be one of the great Valley liberos as she settles in. As her I.Q. goes, so goes her career. As her confidence goes, so goes her career.”

Talent and skill merge for liberos as the dig or serve-receive becomes a pass. It takes quickness to get to a ball and it takes skill and confidence to turn that ball into a good pass that sets up the offense. The best liberos get places quickly and then are calm and steady when it comes to using their hands and arm to form a platform and redirect the ball with proper pace.

“She’s the kind of libero, like Kelly Broussard, that you’ve got to slow down,” Lamb said. “You can have too much fast-twitching to be a libero, you make last-minute adjustments with your arm and your platform can be kind of reckless. That’s the world that Carney’s in. You want to be cushiony, soft.”

Carney is working to eliminate bad habits. Extra movements, she learned, are often not helpful

“A lot of people would say you have to move your feet to get ready for the ball, whereas you have to really be stopped,” she said. “It’s just simplifying your movements.”

Carney earned All-American honors from the National Fastpitch Coaches Association at Washburn Rural, where she played center field on the softball team. She decided to take the volleyball path in college as a junior, in part because she enjoyed her visit to WSU so much.

“I just really felt like it was the place to be, and a very home-like atmosphere,” she said. “I feel like you get a lot closer with your teammates in volleyball vs. softball. I can really play for the team in volleyball more than softball.”

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

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