Wichita State Shockers

Younes was key piece for Shocker volleyball's climb

When Sara Younes considered leaving Wichita State after her freshman season, she listened to her parents and volleyball coach Chris Lamb.

They wanted her to stay. She felt miserable and a transfer to a school in California seemed the cure.

"I cried a lot and I wanted to go home really bad," she said.

If you're a Shocker volleyball fan, you know how it turned out. This weekend, Younes, now Sara Younes Butler, becomes the first volleyball player inducted into the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame.

She also listened to Lute Olson, then the Arizona men's basketball coach. Without him, well, without him she probably still stays at WSU and leads Shocker volleyball to the 2004 NCAA Tournament. It's a better story, however, with Olson on the speaker phone. As Lamb tells it, he was talking to his friend in the Arizona volleyball office about her homesickness when Olson happened to get on the speaker phone. He told her a lot of athletes went through a tough time, and most of them made the right decision to stick it out.

"We had a really long talk," Butler said. "I remember him being very rational and logical. It was a new voice, and I respected his authority."

Olson's impromptu pep talk, perhaps, changed the future of Shocker volleyball.

"I don't remember setting it up," Lamb said. "I don't think I would have asked Lute Olson for five minutes of his time, even when I was at Arizona."

Things at WSU got better quickly for Butler, an outside hitter from Bakersfield, Calif. She met her husband, Troy Butler, on a blind date on the first day of her sophomore year. WSU's volleyball team improved quickly, with Butler playing a lead role. Her powerful left arm and leaping ability produced the spikes and aces that first symbolized WSU's volleyball surge.

"Sara was the punch," Lamb said. "She was the scorer that gave us a fighting chance."

Butler earned Missouri Valley Conference Newcomer of the Year honors in 2001. In 2004, she became WSU's first MVC Player of the Year and first honorable-mention All-America pick. That season, WSU won its first MVC title on its way to the NCAAs.

Butler joined a group of recruits who came to WSU on faith that Lamb could turn the program around. Butler, who met Lamb while in seventh grade in Bakersfield, was skeptical of WSU before her visit. That mood changed quickly upon meeting her future teammates and people at WSU. Lamb wisely paired her with Julie Renfrow, also a Californian. She surprised the coaches by committing at the airport after her visit.

"I really connected with the girls," Butler said. "I knew the program was in good hands."

She knew enough about Lamb to know that. He trained her early in her career and shaped her hitting technique and defense with his unique drills.

"He would use these funky terms — squatting like a dog," Butler said. "He's the king of defense, I think. If you want to be trained to be great, volleyball players go to Chris."

Butler lives in Kansas City, where she works as a lawyer. She is playing volleyball again after a neck injury kept her off the volleyball court for four years. She keeps track of the Shockers, knowing she was a big part of the program's foundation.

"There's a lot of pride," she said. "I can remember my senior year and the new girls came in and they were used to us being good. We were like, 'You have no idea what we went through to get to this point.' "