Evansville coach Mike Swan watched video of Wichita State and didn’t notice outside hitter Ashlyn Driskill. That’s not surprising, because Driskill’s playing time slipped in recent matches. That will change after Friday, and coaches will certainly notice.
“The films we evaluated didn’t even have her playing in them,” Swan said. “We were surprised.”
Driskill sparked WSU to a sweep of Evansville (25-16, 25-16, 25-17) at Koch Arena, its 12th straight home win over the Aces. She recorded a career-high 15 kills, hitting .286, and a service ace. All from a freshman who didn’t play in two of WSU’s previous three matches. Coach Chris Lamb didn’t act too surprised because he remembers Driskill’s performance in a win over then-No. 24 Colorado State in August. Driskill produced nine kills in that match.
When Driskill is playing well on the left, Lamb can play junior Sam Sanders on the right, the lineup he prefers.
“She hit with range, and I’m really, really excited about that,” Lamb said. “Big picture, that really lets Sam do what Sam ought to be doing. That’s the team that should be on the floor.”
With that unit working, the Shockers (8-4, 2-1 Missouri Valley Conference) had little trouble beating Evansville (5-10, 1-2) for the 21st time in the past 22 meetings. WSU compiled a .300 attack percentage and held the Aces to .069, a season-low for an opponent. Emily Adney added nine kills and 11 digs. Sanders hit .368 with eight kills.
Driskill didn’t play in the MVC opener against Drake last weekend and had two kills in two sets against Creighton. In practice this week, Lamb played her on the right a lot and forced her out of her comfort zone.
“I’ve never done that before,” she said. “Doing slides on the right side worked on contacting the ball high, because I had to otherwise I would hit in the net every time. That kind of transferred over to the left side.”
Like in the Colorado State match, Driskill attacked with power and efficiency. Her booming serve also is a weapon.
“She played a lot older than she has been playing, which is a really good improvement to see,” WSU setter Chelsey Feekin said. “Just swinging away, because it’s got to be hard to go out there so young and have that much pressure on you.”
Evansville’s best chance to steal a set came in the finale. The Aces led early before WSU took over. Then the Aces cut the lead to 19-16 after a Shocker timeout. Feekin regained the momentum with a setter dump and libero Jackie Church followed with an ace for a 21-16 lead. WSU finished the match on a 5-1 run.
WSU led 8-6 in the first set before a run of four points forced Swan to call timeout. A ball-handling error and another kill by Driskill put WSU up 14-6. Driskill recorded another kill and an ace for a 16-8 lead and the Aces didn’t get closer than six points again.
Evansville kept it close longer in the second set, trailing 14-12 before a service error sparked WSU. After a timeout, Driskill recorded back-to-back kills for an 18-12 lead. Driskill, Elizabeth Field and Sanders each had four kills in the set.