Bob Lutz: Shockers’ four volleyball seniors will remain close

12/05/2013 5:11 PM

12/05/2013 5:12 PM

Next summer’s trip to California’s wine country is planned.

Elizabeth Field and her family, who live in Windsor, Calif., will welcome Chelsey Feekin, Sam Sanders and Ashley Andrade, Field’s fellow seniors on the Wichita State volleyball team, for a vacation.

Feekin is from Papillion, Neb., just outside of Omaha. Sanders is from Rhome, Texas; Andrade from Glendale, Ariz.

Wichita State volleyball brought them together. And because of their five years together on Wichita State’s volleyball team, they’re determined never to part. At least not for long.

“We’re trying to schedule summer trips beyond next summer,” Feekin, one of the best setters in WSU history, said. “We want to grow old together, with our kids.”

Feekin, Field, Sanders and Andrade have played in all 34 Shocker matches and will be keys to how Wichita State fares Friday night against Kansas in a first-round NCAA Tournament game in Lawrence. They are the Shockers’ best players and the best of friends.

“We all have different personalities,” Sanders said. “But we just clicked. These three girls are my best friends and I will never forget them.”

Leaving college is such a crossroad for everyone who does so. What happens next?

Relationships blossom, jobs are found, kids are born. Old friends can get lost in all of that shuffle.

Not going to happen with these four, they insist. And with the last game of their last season looming — it could be over Friday — they’re thinking more about what lies ahead.

“I’m not a crier or someone who is emotional like that,” Sanders said. “But these last couple of weeks, I’ve just caught myself crying. After our game Saturday (in the finals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament) I was really upset. But really happy at the same time. Because this is just the perfect way to end our season.”

There’s closure. The Shockers made it to another NCAA Tournament and for the second straight year will meet the Jayhawks in Lawrence in the first round. It’s not that the seniors are satisfied with what has been accomplished — there’s more they want to do. But they are gratified to have more time to play volleyball together.

“We’re friends above and beyond, it’s not just a volleyball relationship,” Andrade said. “We hang out together all the time. We have dinner with one another. Literally everything from our freshman year until now, we’ve done together.”

That’s why the California trip has been planned for next summer. These girls can’t imagine being apart, leading separate lives. They will soon be without volleyball, but there’s no way they’re going to be without one another.

“We have our fair share of oceanside views where I’m from,” Field said. “Big redwood trees that I can show them. Napa Valley is nearby so we might make a trip into the grape scene. We might take a trip into the mountains. But as far as I’m concerned, I just want to hang out with the girls and do whatever.”

Sanders said the four friends each have a distinct personality that sets them apart.

“Chelsey is the goofy one,” she said. “Ashley is more the mom type and Field is the Nor-Cal hippie girl. She’s just Field. I didn’t start calling her Elizabeth until this year. She’s just always been Field.”

Andrade said Sanders has the strongest personality in the group.

“Very strong, very determined,” Andrade said with Sanders sitting nearby. “She will always tell you what she’s thinking, the first one to tell you how it is. But it’s constructive criticism, which is always good. She keeps everybody in line.”

Feekin, Field, Sanders and Andrade have had outstanding volleyball careers. Feekin will go down as one of the best in Shocker history.

“They’ve been on the field together for a lot of years,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “But outside of Chelsey, they came in very raw. None of them were real high-level players. They were basically good athletes with potential who turned themselves into really good volleyball players.”

But that chapter is closing. Volleyball was never going to last forever.

Friendship, though, can. If it is nourished. If it’s a priority. If it’s meaningful.

“We will stay in touch,” Field said. “We’ve created a bond here, friendships and relationships with one another that will be hard to let fizzle. I certainly hope that in 20-30 years we’ll still be hanging out together, going places, having our kids meet. All of that stuff.”

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