Dani Mostrom spent most of 2013 setting in practices for Wichita State’s volleyball team. Even in the spring, she didn’t figure into the plans for coach Chris Lamb’s top back-row options.
Despite starting from behind as a redshirt freshman, Mostrom has emerged as WSU’s most consistent passer and is firmly established as the libero. Even Lamb didn’t see this coming. Last spring, he listed Kelsey Banwart, Jordan Hinkle and Gaby Urban ahead of Mostrom.
“And we were very comfortable with that,” he said. “We were ready to walk into the season that way.”
Banwart left the program over the summer, leaving Mostrom to compete against Hinkle, Urban and freshman Alyssa Carney for libero and defensive specialists spots. Mostrom, forced to set last season when backup Jordan Loney sat idle with wrist injuries, had to convert from multi-purpose player to specialist.
“Dani did not walk in the door as a passer,” Lamb said. “We fell in love with Dani as a person who comes to all of our camps and she does a little bit everything.”
In August, however, Mostrom’s status began to change and she worked her way into Lamb’s plan with consistent passing statistics in practices. He calls her passing platform “magical” and compares her serve-receive statistical success to his best passers from his 14 seasons at WSU.
“You couldn’t miss the fact that Dani’s passing numbers were just off the chart,” he said. “She, dare I say, has a little bit of a gift.”
Mostrom, from Springfield, Mo., spent the summer coaching fifth- and sixth-graders in her hometown. Teaching them taught her something about the sport.
“A lot of it, I was breaking down the tips for passing,” she said. “I was breaking it down to the simplest forms for them to understand. Maybe doing that every day helped.”
Mostrom pays close attention to her passing statistics in practice. She started at libero against Tennessee on Sept. 13 and in every match since except one.
“I wanted to stay consistent,” she said. “When I realized I was getting consistent passing numbers, I began to feel comfortable. During double days we did a lot of serve-and-pass every day. You get reps over and over again. The more reps you get, the more comfortable you get.”
The Shockers (15-3, 5-0 Missouri Valley Conference) are tied for first place with Illinois State (12-4, 5-0). The teams meet Friday in Normal, Ill.
Coach Kristi Bredbenner started the fall with three freshmen pitchers, two returners and some doubts. She feels better about the position with fall practices coming to an end. Freshman Kaitlyn Malone threw a five-inning no-hitter in an earlier scrimmage. Freshman Jenni Brooks is expected to pitch this week after missing some of the fall with an injury.
“It’s nice knowing Kaitlyn Malone can come in and do a really good job and keep teams off balance,” Bredbenner said. “The one thing that’s really been exciting to see is the leadership that (senior) Sloan Anderson has brought to the table. She’s taken on that responsibility this year. I felt she was much mature so far this fall in her pitching and, even when she struggled, she never really let it affect her.”
Sophomore outfielder Cacy Williams, a transfer from Emporia State, leads WSU with three home runs in scrimmages.