The schedule gave Wichita State’s volleyball team a rare November break. Coach Chris Lamb is grateful.
The Shockers played one match last weekend and play at home Friday and Saturday. Most seasons, they travel on the last weekend of the regular season and face travel partner Missouri State (a one-match weekend) in late October.
“I’m going with the theory that rest is never a bad thing,” Lamb said. “We’ll be as rested as we can possibly be.”
It is up to the Shockers to turn the scheduling quirk into a strong finish. The Missouri Valley Conference Tournament starts Thursday in Springfield, Mo.
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WSU is No. 42 in the NCAA’s power rankings (RPI) and can help their at-large resume against No. 31 Creighton (No. 23 in the coaches poll) on Friday at Koch Arena. The Bluejays clinched a share of their first MVC title and need a split of this weekend’s matches (they travel to Missouri State on Saturday) to win it outright. The Shockers hope fresh legs and a fresh outlook keep Creighton from celebrating on their home floor. WSU took three days off from practice this week.
“For us older girls that jump a lot, it feels really good on the body to have a day off,” senior Emily Adney said. “It’s easier to go and get in the gym.”
Junior right-side Sam Sanders practiced this week and could be ready to play after missing the past three matches with a sore shoulder. Sanders took it easy with her swings in practice this week to protect the shoulder.
“She’s taking more and more swings in practice,” Lamb said. “We’re going to put our best team on the floor based on how we feel at 7 Friday night.”
After years of hanging around the top of the Valley, Creighton broke through the Wichita State-Northern Iowa dominance with the conference’s best attack percentage (.254) and lowest opponent attack percentage (.139). Sophomore middle blocker Kelli Browning ranks second in the MVC in attack percentage (.406) and leads in blocks (1.63 a set).
“They’re the classic don’t-beat-themselves team,” Lamb said. “They play clean.”
Creighton held WSU to a .159 attack percentage in a 3-1 win in Omaha in September. Setter Chelsey Feekin hit .474 and WSU’s attackers struggled to find open spots. Creighton hit .253.
“They have girls that, some of them are going to swing away and some of them are going to place it pretty well,” WSU libero Jackie Church said. “I’m definitely comfortable playing them. We have the advantage when it comes to firepower and aggressiveness.”
Church and Adney will play their final home matches this weekend. The Shockers play Drake on Saturday. Both are trying to avoid the emotions and focus on finishing the season strong. Adney, a two-time All-MVC selection, leads WSU with an average of 3.16 kills a set and 30 aces. Church leads WSU with 461 digs and her 22 aces rank second.
“I’ve never been super-emotional about that kind of stuff,” Adney said. “I want to say it’s more about the volleyball for me.”
Church remembers watching last season’s senior night and thinking it wasn’t a big deal. She thinks differently now.
“I didn’t hit me until the last two weeks,” she said. “The last time playing in Koch in front of all these fans, that’s always going to be emotional. I have a new respect for those girls and how they were feeling last year.”