Highlights of the week ahead:
▪ Shockers volleyball starts MVC play with home matches against Indiana State (11-4) on Friday and defending champion Illinois State (10-3) on Saturday. The Redbirds lost five starters from last season’s team that went 18-0 in the MVC. They’re following up with a solid non-conference performance highlighted by a win over Long Beach State.
It doesn’t appear a favorite emerged from the MVC’s first four weekends. WSU, Northern Iowa, Illinois State and Missouri State played strong schedules. While they all grabbed good victories, none of them dominated to the extent they appear to clear the rest of the field. The Shockers are the preseason favorite and, even with Saturday’s loss to IUPUI, they did enough. Defending home court vs. Illinois State is crucial if WSU is to compete for the MVC title.
▪ WSU’s women’s tennis team, working on a streak of seven NCAA appearances, focuses on individual play in the fall. It starts it season at the OU Invitational in Norman, Okla., on Friday.
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▪ WSUs softball team continues its fall scrimmages with games against Creighton (noon) and Tulsa (4:30 p.m.) on Saturday at Wilkins Stadium.
▪ WSU volleyball started the Marquette Invitational with a 3-2 win over Marquette. That’s a quality win. Saturday’s loss to IUPUI took some shine off beating Marquette, although we’ll have to see how much. IUPUI is 9-5 with losses to Kentucky, Michigan State and Marquette.
Marquette rallied to win the next two and the Golden Eagles are 8-4 entering Big East play, where they are picked second. WSU’s win over Kentucky continues to look good after the Wildcats improved to 7-5 with wins over Xavier and Louisville.
The MVC is 85-52 (62 percent) in non-conference play and one of the three teams with a losing record is UNI, which played a tough schedule.
▪ WSU freshman runner Rebekah Topham finished second in the Woody Greeno Invitational with a time of 22 minutes, 9 seconds on the 6-kilometer course. In her debut, she won the JK Gold Classic with a 4k time of 14:13.9. The Shockers take a step up in competition when they run in the Chile Pepper Festival in Arkansas on Oct. 3.
▪ WSU basketball had two visitors over the weekend. Pearl River Community College forward Darryln Willis appears to check a lot of boxes for needs in 2016-17. Guard Tyrik Dixon, from Southwest Christian Academy in Arkansas, made an unofficial visit, according to Ron Crawford of the Arkansas Wings.
▪ Van Buren (Ark.) big man Mitchell Smith, who considered WSU, committed to Missouri on his visit.
Monday’s reading recommendation:
Sports Illustrated gets us ready for college basketball with LISTS.