Amanda Backes is running out of volleyball matches, which might be one reason her up-and-down career is on the upswing.
"I don't know if I'll ever play volleyball again," she said. "This means a lot to me. I really want to end well."
Backes, a senior from Albers, Ill., may do just that. A switch to the right side is another reason her production is improving. She totaled 10 kills and hit .381 in Friday's 3-2 win over Missouri State. In WSU's previous match, she had nine kills with a .400 attack percentage at Illinois State.
"Amanda Backes is producing in a big way," WSU coach Chris Lamb said. "She just played 2 hours and 11 minutes of volleyball (against Missouri State) and made two errors. That can get this team over the hump."
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WSU (16-5, 9-3 Missouri Valley Conference) is in third place, a half-game behind second-place Creighton (15-8, 10-3). The Bluejays visit Koch Arena tonight, followed by Saturday's match against Drake (21-7, 6-7).
This weekend also gives the Shockers another chanced to move up in the NCAA's power ratings. The Shockers jumped to No. 24 in the RPI, up five spots, after the win over No. 33 Missouri State. Creighton (No. 41) and Drake (No. 68) offer WSU chances to improve records of 3-4 against the top 50 and 9-4 against the top 100.
Stretches like this aren't uncommon for Backes. The trick is prolonging them. Lamb moved her from the left to the right in late October and she likes the change.
"Hitting on the (left) gets hard, especially on bad balls," she said. "It's hard for me to get my arm around. When I'm just coming off the right side. either coming for a set on the middle or on the right, it gets comfortable for me. We've been working on it a lot."
Backes started her final season at WSU with seven kills at Oklahoma and 13 against Miami. She totaled 29 in a three-match stretch in late September. WSU has won five straight matches, and Backes believes her game is improving as the team starts to peak.
"Everything is starting to click," she said. "There's like a new energy on the team."
Worth noting — Saturday's match against Drake is televised on Cox 22.... WSU will celebrate alumni weekend during Saturday's match. Volleyball alums will be introduced between sets two and three.... Creighton defeated WSU 3-2 on Oct. 9 in Omaha, a match in which the Shockers committed 10 service errors and gave up six aces.... WSU has won 20 straight matches against Drake.