In most seasons and most sports, power ratings are a source of concern for Missouri Valley Conference schools.
Not this fall for volleyball teams. Wichita State is 13-5 and in fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference. Those are marks that, in some past seasons, equaled elimination from at-large consideration for the NCAA Tournament. Instead, coach Chris Lamb can take comfort in his team's No. 28 rank in the NCAA's RPI. The Shockers are in a good spot and can make it better over the next month.
"My goal is to play our best volleyball at the end of the year, beat the teams we're supposed to beat, and we've got to get a couple of these wins against the top teams," Lamb said. "And maintain the position we're in. A No. 28 RPI, right now, with five losses shows you how good our schedule actually has been."
The Shockers (6-3 MVC) begin the second half of the conference play with a schedule that tilts in their favor. They play at Indiana State (9-13, 1-8) tonight and at Illinois State (13-9, 3-6) on Saturday. After this weekend, WSU plays five of its final seven matches at home. Three of those home matches are against top-40 RPI teams — No. 6 Northern Iowa, No. 23 Missouri State and No. 40 Creighton.
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"I look forward to meeting a lot of these teams at home," freshman middle Elizabeth Field said. "We want to draw a little bit of blood."
The Shockers will need to play more consistently to raise that RPI and move up in the MVC standings. They haven't won more than two matches in a row since early September. WSU takes a two-match win streak and some positive trends into this weekend's trip.
Field is showing signs of adding punch to the offense. Senior outside hitter Lindsey Eckenrode is getting healthy. Freshman Sam Sanders is back from a thumb injury and Lamb likes her potential to give WSU a threat in addition to outside hitters Camri Zwiesler and Emily Adney and middle Sarah McGee.
"I want to see scoring from more than three people," Lamb said. "Before Sam got injured, and right after she came back, it was like 'That's it.' She just needs match time."
If the Shockers finish strong, it won't be a surprise. In the past six seasons, WSU went 9-0 twice and 8-1 four times in the second half of the conference schedule.