For Wichita State volleyball, playing at Oklahoma's McCasland Field House will feel a lot like home.
The Shockers (21-7) will play in the NCAA Tournament on Friday in a gym where they boast a 5-1 record in tournaments this season and in 2008. Their opponent is Oklahoma, a team they defeated earlier this season, running their win streak to five over the Sooners (21-10).
"I think it's good for us," outside hitter Emily Adney said. "They've gotten better throughout the season. We've gotten better throughout the season."
Many Shocker fans are expected to make the 180-mile drive, while Sooner fans will be distracted by the Big 12 football championship game in Arlington, Texas. LSU (25-4), the national No. 13 seed, plays Tulsa (30-2) in the other first-round match.
"The bottom line is that we're in, and that's all that matters," WSU setter Mary Elizabeth Hooper said. "It's close. We'll have fans. It's a comfortable setting."
While the Shockers are happy to play close to home, they do wonder why they aren't playing at home. Their resume to host seems stronger than Oklahoma's — WSU's RPI rank is No. 18, eight spots higher than the Sooners. Koch Arena is superior facility to McCasland Field House, and WSU's average attendance of 2,501 dwarfs OU's average of 872.
"We have four times the fans," WSU coach Chris Lamb said. "I'm kind of surprised it's not happening here."
Lamb doesn't want to dwell on that disappointment. The Shockers, who lost Friday in the semifinals of the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament, return to practice today. Their biggest task is to learn how to play without middle blocker Sarah McGee, lost for the season to a knee injury suffered Nov. 19.
"Time is a good thing, especially with the possibility of having three freshmen on the floor," Lamb said. "Whether we play the same way we did (in the MVC Tournament) is something we're going to decide this week. I'm not sure what our team is going to look like."
WSU's RPI made their inclusion in the field a sure thing and validated a strong schedule. WSU went 10-6 against the top 100, including non-conference wins over top-50 teams Oklahoma and SMU.
"I'm glad we have practice tomorrow," Lamb said. "During the summer, we didn't know what we were going to expect. This is a reward for an amazing year. We hang another banner."
The winners meet Saturday for the right to advance to the third round in University Park, Pa.
WSU is one of four Missouri Valley Conference teams in the field.
MVC champion Northern Iowa, seeded fifth nationally, is hosting the first two rounds in Cedar Falls, Iowa. The Panthers play Missouri. Arizona and Northwestern complete the four-team bracket.
Creighton, the MVC Tournament runner-up, is in the NCAA Tournament for the first time. It plays Iowa State in Minneapolis. Missouri State plays Auburn in Lincoln, Neb.