Wichita State needed an eye-catching volleyball win. As usual, Oklahoma helped out.
The Shockers handled the Sooners 3-1 (25-21, 25-21, 22-25, 25-14) on Wednesday at McCasland Field House. WSU (11-5) won its seventh straight regular-season match against OU (13-5) and like many of the previous ones, it figures to help should WSU need an at-large spot in the NCAA Tournament. OU entered the game with a power ranking (RPI) of No. 14, courtesy of of a schedule that included five matches against ranked opponents and wins over then-No. 11 Kansas State and then-No. 19 Kentucky.
WSU, No. 54 in the RPI, came to Norman feeling desperate after a series of losses to high-profile teams, most recently Saturday at Northern Iowa.
“That was a really big win,” WSU setter Chelsey Feekin said. “We haven’t won a big game in awhile, it feels like forever. It feels great to have that under our belt.”
WSU put together one of its most complete performances against a quality opponent in recent seasons. Its offense dominated the first and fourth sets, when it recorded attack percentages of better than .350 in both. Its defense and serving frustrated the Sooners in the second and fourth sets, holding them under .100 in both. Feekin’s direction of the offense controlled the match. The Shockers hit .247 against one of the Big 12’s better blocking teams. The Sooners are talented enough to try a lot of one-on-one blocking and want to force teams away from their middles. Feekin and the passers got the ball to the pin players time and time again in high-percentage situations to beat the OU back row.
“Chelsey was brilliant,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “She stayed with the plan. They’ve got big physical middles that don’t want your middles to score.”
The passing and setting led to big nights for right-side hitter Sam Sanders, who matched her career high with 17 kills, and left Emily Adney, who added 11. The WSU middles didn’t put up big numbers, but Ashley Andrade recorded three of her six kills on six swings in the deciding set.
“Lambo’s been talking to me about attack selection,” Sanders said. “When I felt they were in on me, I would go line. We played very smart.”
The Sooners started the match with Keila Rodriguez defending Sanders and Sanders hit over her. When they switched to taller Kierra Holst, Sanders overpowered her, as well.
“We need big, bad Sam and she got it done,” Lamb said.
WSU pulled away late in the first set, winning on a laser by Ashlyn Driskill off libero Maria Fernanda and into the net. In the second set, it built a 20-14 lead and held off a Sooner rally. OU regrouped to win the third set by outscoring WSU 5-2 to break a tie.
The Shockers didn’t panic. They controlled the fourth set by holding OU to an .098 attack percentage while they hit .351. Libero Jackie Church recorded nine digs in the set.
“We just talked about how bad it felt at Northern Iowa when we got dominated,” Feekin said. “We wanted to take it to them and show that there was no doubt.”
The Shockers feel they have a mental edge over the Sooners, who are 1-5 against WSU since 2008. OU did get the big one in that stretch — a 2010 NCAA win. Other that than one, the Shockers know how to close out matches against OU.
“If our energy is up high, they always back down,” Sanders said. “We always play better against them when our energy is up.”