Wichita State is the preseason volleyball favorite in the Missouri Valley Conference for the first time since 2009. While coach Chris Lamb can think of other contenders, he won’t brush off the praise.
“We’ll take all the good pub we can get,” he said.
WSU received eight of the 10 first-place votes in the poll. It went went 24-10 last season and finished third in the MVC with a 13-5 record. The Shockers advanced to the Sweet 16 of the NCAA Tournament and return setter Chelsey Feekin and middle Elizabeth Field, both named to the preseason All-MVC team.
Those NCAA victories likely stuck with voters. The Shockers received 98 points with Northern Iowa in second place with 84. Missouri State earned two first-place votes and 83 points. Defending champion Creighton is a member of the Big East.
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We had a nice run last year at the end,” Lamb said. “I think it’s kind of a program vote, since we had some nice success. Missouri State, I guess they would tell you they, through some adversity, underachieved last year. They’ve got an entire lineup returning, and I think they’ll be very strong. I think the same about Illinois State.”
Northern Iowa returns two starters from a team that played in the NCAAs for a seventh straight season. The Panthers (25-10) added setter Kinsey Caldwell, who transferred from UNLV after earning Mountain West Conference Freshman of the Year. All-MVC outside hitter Macy Ubben and middle Shelby Kintzel are back. Missouri State (16-15) returns seven seniors and four juniors, including All-MVC setter Carly Thomas. The Bears added right-side Kayla Walton, a transfer from South Florida, who earned All-Big East honors in 2012. Illinois State (18-12) returns six starters.
WSU opens the season on Aug. 30 against North Dakota State in Orem, Utah.
• Lamb said his team’s defense is ahead of the offense, especially on out-of-system balls.
“It’s hard for our girls to score,” he said. “It’s been frustrating to tune the offense when the defense won’t let them score. Our in-system offense has been great, but we’ve got to get better at the other stuff.”
• Redshirt freshman Dani Mostrom is making a strong push at libero, Lamb said, with strong passing and serve-receive statistics in practice.
“She’s made herself so relevant for that discussion,” Lamb said. “She’s kind of been the leader just about every single of day. Those are slow-growth kind of things and to see her grow this quickly at it has been really fun.”
The Shockers must replace libero Jackie Church from last season’s team.
• Loyola, in its first MVC season, is picked sixth. The Ramblers went 17-12 last season and finished fourth in the Horizon League with an 8-6 record. Five starters, and the libero, return. WSU gets its first look at the newcomer on Oct. 19 at Koch Arena.