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Shockers face Kansas in NCAA volleyball opener

  • Eagle correspondent
  • Published Sunday, Dec. 1, 2013, at 10:41 p.m.
  • Updated Monday, Dec. 2, 2013, at 10:48 a.m.

Chris Lamb is used to the anxiety that has typically accompanied the NCAA Tournament Selection Show for the Wichita State volleyball team.

But on Sunday night, as Lamb watched with his team at Fox and Hound, there was a different feeling in the air — relaxation.

Because the Shockers claimed their Missouri Valley tournament championship earlier in the weekend, they were guaranteed not only their seventh straight appearance in the tournament but did so as an automatic qualifier for only the second time in the Lamb era.

Wichita State (28-6) will play No. 14 Kansas in the first round of the NCAA Tournament on Friday as the Shockers travel to Lawrence for the second straight season.

Creighton (22-8) and Arkansas (16-13) are the other teams in the pod.

“Knowing you’re in as an automatic qualifier made (Saturday) night a lot easier to sleep and (Sunday) a lot easier,” Lamb said. “As a competitive mid-major, the recipe for getting there is the most arduous. You have to have a lot of things go right, so we spend all year acting like we aren’t going to be an automatic qualifier and that makes you pay the price. So being able to sit back and relax, that was kind of nice. You don’t get that all the time.”

Last season WSU knocked off Arkansas and Kansas in Lawrence to reach the NCAA Regionals, where it lost to Southern California.

It’s not a surprise to Lamb to see familiar faces again this season.

“We had a feeling that Nebraska or Kansas would host and we’re right down the street,” Lamb said. “You’re just kind of used to going to play neighbors when possible, unless it makes no sense from a competitive standpoint. It’s good for Shockers fans because now more people are going to be able to drive up and see us play.”

As soon as the three other teams materialized on the screen, Lamb began to gauge the Shockers’ chances.

“It’s wide open,” Lamb said. “I didn’t really pay attention to the other pods, but I wonder how many of the other 16 pods could really be ... like this one. I think this one is as competitive as it gets.”

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