Sometimes it’s not about adjustments, balanced scoring or the scouting report. Sometimes it’s about the best volleyball player on the floor wearing your uniform.
Friday night provided one of those moments for Wichita State in its 3-1 (20-25, 26-24, 25-21, 25-16) win over Illinois State at Koch Arena. Through good times and bad, the Shockers got the ball to outside hitter Emily Adney and she scored.
“Adney went off in the third and fourth sets,” Illinois State coach Melissa Myers said. “She saw the court well and made great decisions.”
Adney, a senior, finished with 22 kills (one short of her career high) and an attack percentage of .347, her second-best this season. She added two aces and seven digs to help WSU (12-5, 5-2 Missouri Valley Conference) survive a brush with disaster. Seven of those kills and both aces came in the crucial second set, when the Shockers rallied to avoid an 0-2 hole.
“You want that out of four-year starters,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “You want that out of all-conference players.”
Lamb didn’t want to consider the possibility of a letdown after Wednesday’s impressive win at Oklahoma. Regardless of the reason, the Redbirds (9-7, 3-3) pushed aside the Shockers in the first set with a strong blocking effort and led 20-16 in the second set. WSU rallied and survived match point at 24-23. Ashlyn Driskill’s kill tied it and the Redbirds lost the set, and ultimately the match, after an attack error and a ball-handling error.
“They closed the set,” Myers said. “We’ve got to execute in those situations. That certainly gave them a boost.”
Down 20-16, Adney scored to start the rally. After an Illinois State timeout, she scored again to tie it 20-all. setter Chelsey Feekin called falling behind 2-0 unacceptable and the Shockers started to play that way.
“We just battled back,” Feekin said. “We knew we had to get that game, because we didn’t want to go five games.”
After hitting .140 and .068 in the first two sets, WSU’s offense revived itself. The Shockers hit .371 and .368. Feekin spread out the blockers by setting the middles more often and the hitters tipped and hit high instead of trying to overpower the blockers. Right-side Sam Sanders, who had two kills in the first two error-filled sets, finished with five in the final two.
“We were relying too much on the pins at first,” Feekin said. “We were just getting blocked time after time. After we started setting the middle more later in the match, that really turned it around.”
WSU led most of the third set, but didn’t pull away until late. The Shockers broke open the final set with a six-point run — started by two Redbirds errors — for a 17-11 lead.