Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb subscribes, at least in part, to a theory that the best athletes don't make the best liberos.
The theory says they move too fast and are too energetic for a position that demands poise and positioning. Shocker libero Sarah Waldorf isn't offended by that suggestion. Last weekend, she proved her poise and positioning can control a match.
Waldorf, a junior starting her first weekend as libero, earned MVP honors at the Nike Invitational in Norman, Okla. WSU went 2-1 and held its opponents to a .099 attack percentage. She averaged 4.91 digs and handled 66 serves without error.
"Nobody played better on my team than Sarah Waldorf for three matches," Lamb said.
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WSU returns to play tonight against Stephen F. Austin in the Shocker Classic at Koch Arena.
Waldorf, from Augusta, can look back on the weekend with a bit of relief. She emerged as a leader on an inexperienced team and took her place in a long line of high-quality Lamb liberos.
"She's so hard on herself, and every single ball matters," setter Mary Elizabeth Hooper said. "She's more confident, for sure. She knows it's her year."
Waldorf played setter in high school and came to WSU knowing it would take time to adjust to a new position. She played defensive specialist last season. With the departure of libero Melissa Granville, Waldorf knew she had first dibs on the spot. She needed to improve her passing and worked to do it in the spring.
"I knew I could do it," she said. "I just had to mentally relax and let my body go to work."
While many volleyball players use their body as a weapon to punish the ball, liberos use their arms and legs to handle the ball and redirect it to the setter. Absorbing a serve and starting the offense with an accurate, soft pass to the setter requires a calm body.
"She's really being good with shape of her body," Lamb said. "When you can keep your shoulders in front of you and you can keep your back round and create that cushioning body shape, it makes it easy to contact the ball."
Waldorf was also relieved to see a young team play well against good competition last weekend. The Shockers beat host Oklahoma and Texas-Arlington and lost in five sets to Miami (Fla.). Friday's win over the Sooners carried extra weight because of the death of baseball player Mitch Caster. The volleyball team missed Caster's memorial service that afternoon and dedicated the match to his memory.
"To accomplish that win that night was special," she said. "I felt really calm on the court. I told myself before the weekend that, with all the young girls on the team and their nerves, it was going to be really important for me to be a leader."