Wichita State volleyball player Sam Sanders is no longer starring in her own version of Ice Age.
“Sam is healthy,” coach Chris Lamb said. “She’s not wrapped in tape and she doesn’t have ice on every part of her body after practice.”
A sore shoulder bothered Sanders in previous seasons, at times dampening the effectiveness of her powerful swing. When Sanders felt good and played well, she gave the Shockers impressive pop on the pins. As a junior, she is looking forward to a more consistent season and spending less time with the trainers. The coaches are monitoring her swings in practice to ease the stress and she said WSU’s larger roster gives her more breaks.
“I haven’t felt this good in a long, long time,” she said. “I’m really excited about it. It makes practice a lot easier. Mentally, it helps out, too. I can come in and practice and not worry about my body.”
The Shockers need a healthy Sanders. They are counting on more production from her as she steps into the role of upperclassman. On the outside, it’s senior Emily Adney, Sanders and five freshmen. Sanders, from Rhome, Texas, started 25 matches as a sophomore and averaged 1.92 kills a set with an attack percentage of .164. She is working on switching to a one-footed approach from a two-footed approach on attacks behind the setter from the right side.
“I’ve been working hard on that, finding different ways to score,” she said. “I feel more comfortable behind the setter, because I’m going off one foot instead of two because I feel like I have more power. I can see the court more and I’m hitting it harder.”
Power is rarely in short supply for Sanders. Lamb sees her adding quieter items to her game by attacking more efficiently and blocking with more patience and vision.
“Sam is a smarter volleyball player now,” he said. “Her kill percentage is up. She’s a smarter blocker. She’s a better ball-handler. She’s more involved. She used to be a competitor who kept to herself. Now she directs traffic a little bit.”
Texas time — When Lamb came to WSU before the 2000 season, fans expected him to recruit California hard. After all, he coached and played in the state known for its volleyball.
Instead, Lamb relied heavily on Iowa and Kansas athletes to build his program. He starts this season with five Texans, three in the freshman class. He said while it’s harder for him to recruit in Iowa these days, Texas is more welcoming because of WSU’s success.
“You’ve got to get kids on visit, and it’s been a lot easier to Texas kids to come here on visits,” Lamb said. “That’s been the big race now, getting good enough kids to come visit and we’re not that far from Dallas.”
As WSU racked up NCAA appearances, Lamb saw Texas club coaches grow more open to talking and sending their players his way. Lamb figures the Shockers compare favorably to any program in Texas, save the Longhorns.
“Those coaches, they want to know how good you are,” he said. “It didn’t take me long in recruiting to say ‘Don’t go to Texas unless you’re good,’ because they size you up walking in there. We’re right there with (Texas) A&M, we’re right there with Baylor. We’re right there with TCU. We’ve been beating Rice. Those kids down there are starting to know that.”
Perfect trips — Indiana State and Missouri State were the only Missouri Valley Conference men’s basketball teams to take exhibition trips this summer. Indiana State went 3-0 in the Bahamas and Missouri State went 4-0 in Costa Rica. Neither team played a game closer than 19 points.
For Indiana State, the play of junior small forward Manny Arop stood out. He scored 17 points in the opening win and 12 in the second game. Arop, a transfer from Gonzaga, missed most of the final game to get stitches in the top of his head after a fall. Junior guard Dawon Cummings, who played at Coffeyville Community College with WSU junior Chadrack Lufile, had high games of 18 and 14 points.
“Manny, in our 10 practices, has been really, really good,” Sycamores coach Greg Lansing said. “He can score in a lot of ways.”
The Bears averaged 85 points, winning all games by 40 or more. Coach Paul Lusk liked the play of his six freshmen. Guard Marcus Marshall averaged 10.5 points with a high of 14. Forward Gavin Thurman, from Southeast High, averaged 8.5 points and finished the trip with 13 points and eight rebounds in the final game. Sophomore forward Christian Kirk averaged 13.3 points and 7.5 rebounds. Senior guard Anthony Downing, from Atchison, scored 17 and 10 points and sat out the final two games to rest his knees.
“No, the competition was not very strong,” Lusk told the Springfield News-Leader. “But we were able to work on some things and were exposed in some areas and we’ll be able to use those as learning tools. The guys played hard, but defensively we have to get a lot better, especially keeping the ball in front of us off the dribble.”
Worth noting — WSU’s season-ticket push for men’s basketball paid off last week. An open house at Koch Arena and other promotions helped sell around 100 season tickets. Russell Wilkins, assistant athletic director for ticket operations estimates around 400 remain available.Shocker Fitness is adding an 8:30 a.m. session designed for parents with children in school. The eight-week session begins Monday at Cessna Stadium. WSU’s alumni softball game is at 2 p.m. Sept. 15. For information call 978-5550.