Drake wasn’t supposed to be a difficult test for the Wichita State volleyball team on Saturday.
But take in the fact that it was senior night and the Shockers were coming off a tough loss to Creighton the night before, it wasn’t a surprise that winning didn’t come as easily as hoped.
“These guys took an emotional hit last night. They had an opportunity to make RPI-magic happen and it got away,” WSU volleyball coach Chris Lamb said. “And we had to turn around and play tonight.”
The physical and mental exhaustion was evident most of the match, but the Shockers managed to fight through it for a 3-0 (25-16, 25-20, 25-21) win over Drake.
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After slugging its way to a two-set lead, WSU (20-8, 13-5 MVC) hit a wall in the third set. Trailing 20-17, it took the team all it had to keep from going to a fourth set.
“If it had gone to a fourth set you question people’s mental stability (and) physical, after that five-set match last night,” WSU junior blocker Elizabeth Field said. “Nobody ever wants to go to a fourth set if nobody has to.”
Field proved to be a major catalyst in the Shockers’ win. She led all players with 15 kills, hitting .542 on the match.
“I can’t put it all on one thing. Yeah, I had a good night,” Field said. “But this team, this group of girls, was the team that came out and beat Drake tonight. I owe all of that to my team.”
The first set was neck and neck until an 8-1 run by the Shockers put it away. Field had five consecutive kills for WSU during that stretch.
The second set was also close from beginning to end, but the Shockers found a way to hold on with a combination of offense and hitting errors by Drake.
“Serve and pass went well and we served just good enough,” Lamb said. “The game plan offensively worked really well.”
The real emotional toll came before the match even started. Seniors Jackie Church and Emily Adney were introduced before the game, each being presented with a bouquet of flowers on the court by Lamb.
“It was kind of crazy that that was the last home game. Like Lamb said, it went by really fast,” Adney said. “At the end of the game you can actually take a breath and let it hit you that that’s it.”
Adney had thoughts of redshirting her freshman season, but injuries forced her into the lineup early and she never looked back. Church originally committed to play at Florida State, but late changes to the coaching staff had her rethink her decision, and she wound up at WSU instead.
“We thought — in both cases — they could come and have great careers here,” Lamb said. “They have been very busy from the time they got here.”
And now that their storied careers are coming to their final chapters, both agree that it’s the times they spent playing in front of the home crowd that they will miss the most.
“That’s the reason you play volleyball. The crowd. Those moments you can never replace,” Church said. “To come together and celebrate in those moments (is what) I’ll never forget.”