One of assistant coach R.J. Abella’s jobs is to tell Wichita State setter Chelsey Feekin to score. Abella knows the numbers and knows that Feekin is one of the nation’s most efficient volleyball scorers. He takes his job seriously.
“He knows how many attempts he wants me at, and he tells me every time we leave a timeout that I need to dump more,” Feekin said. “If he’s talking to me, that’s what he’s saying.”
Feekin, a junior from Papillion, Neb., is busy enough to rank third nationally, through Saturday’s matches, with an attack percentage of .480. She has 101 kills and 18 errors on 173 attempts, swinging frequently enough to meet the NCAA’s minimum average of 3.33 attempts a set to qualify for the leaders list.
Abella enthusiastically asks for more.
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“I think he’s going to hurt me,” coach Chris Lamb said.
“And me,” Feekin added.
All kidding aside, nobody is holding Feekin back.
Her scoring ability — as a lefty she is in perfect position to sweep the ball over the net and take the defense by surprise — is one of the reasons WSU’s offense is clicking after two weekend sweeps. The Shockers (9-4, 3-1 Missouri Valley Conference) hit .300 in Friday’s win over Evansville and a season-high .374 against Southern Illinois on Saturday. WSU travels to Bradley (6-8, 0-3) on Friday and three-time defending MVC champion Northern Iowa (11-5, 3-0) on Saturday.
“If you could lead off every inning with Tony Gwynn, you probably would,” Lamb said. “It’s hard to argue. We’ve got someone here that does something really well and we should be doing as many things that we do really well as we can.”
Feekin contributed six kills and hit .625 against Evansville. Against SIU, it was eight kills and .727. Staying consistent with her attempts is important. Sometimes, when she is more focused on running the offense and setting up teammates, she can neglect her own scoring skills. In the second set against Evansville, she recorded only two attempts. She came back late in the third with two kills that helped the Shockers pull away.
“I try to do it whenever I have a good ball to do it on,” she said. “I just try to see the block as best I can and just throw it.”
Feekin’s scoring stretches defenses. Abella encourages her to be more aggressive and show weapons, such as a push to the back corner, that she often uses in practice. He compares her to a power hitter who should swing away until the other team stops her.
“She holds the blocker, or even two blockers, automatically,” outside hitter Emily Adney said. “That usually means I’m one on one. And it means the middles are one on one.”
WSU’s attack featured plenty of diversity over the weekend, making its long-term view more favorable. Freshman left Ashlyn Driskill recorded a career-high 15 kills on Friday and followed with 10 on Saturday, her first double figures games this season. With Driskill playing efficiently, Lamb can put junior Sam Sanders on the right, where he prefers. Adney was named MVC player of the week after totaling 16 kills with a .485 attack percentage on Saturday.
The Shockers may look back on the weekend as a turning point for their offense. With the back row feeding Feekin smoothly, WSU played organized and efficient volleyball in both matches.
“It was really the passing,” Feekin said. “Our hitters felt a lot more comfortable and I felt a lot more comfortable.”