Written in green magic marker, topping many of the statistical categories on coach Chris Lamb’s wipe board, is KIL. For those not fluent in Wichita State volleyball shorthand, KIL stands for sophomore Ashlyn Driskill.
It is, of course, a fitting nickname for the sophomore outside hitter with a powerful arm. Driskill is determined to produce in many ways this season. She wants to play all six rotations and her passing statistics are the one she pays most attention to during fall practices.
“Serving, passing and defending — it’s never been what you think of when you see Ashlyn Driskill,” Lamb said. “It may be a ways before she becomes that full-time player, but she’s gotten so much better at it. She’s making that important to her.”
Volleyball is like basketball. Scoring is fun. Defense and passing is drudgery. The best players figure out that defense and passing will win over a coach.
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Former six-rotation players — Emily Stockman, Emily Adney, Sara Lungren — carry a mark of distinction for their versatility. Driskill wants to grow into that type of well-rounded player.
As a freshman, she didn’t rush to read Lamb’s passing statistics. Now she pays sharp attention. Hitting comes naturally. She made important improvements in her swing toward the end of last season, hitting the ball higher and reading blocks. With that step behind her, she can work on other facets. The Shockers need players to replace Adney and libero Jackie Church, the duo who dominated the passing last season. Driskill is one of several players — including Sam Sanders, Katie Reilly and MaryAshton Floyd — targeted as potential six-rotation players. The Shockers open the season on Friday against North Dakota State in Orem, Utah.
“The pressure is more on, passing-wise,” Driskill said. “Your stats will tell if you’re able to play back row. Now I’m really driven and focused on (the stats).”
Driskill, slim and almost fragile-looking as a freshman, is noticeably more athletic. The strength helps in the back row, allowing her to hold her form and control the ball.
“She’s making herself a more complete player,” Lamb said. “She’s maturing and she’s getting stronger. It’s helping with sustaining the season, the long rallies, the long weeks of practice.”
When Driskill returned to practice, teammates noticed her improved jump-serve. She attributes her increased accuracy and consistency to better hand contact and practice.
“We asked, ‘What have you been doing all summer?’” senior Ashley Andrade said. “She can hit to different spots and she’s getting good at turning her hand with it, so it’s not only going straight ahead, it’s kind of curving.”
Worth noting — WSU’s men’s golf team received five votes in the Golf World/Nike coaches preseason poll. Alabama is No. 1, followed by California and Texas.… WSU’s men’s cross country team is No. 14 in the Midwest Region rankings voted on by a regional representative. The WSU women are not ranked. Southern Illinois is the highest-ranked MVC men’s team, No. 9 in the Midwest. Illinois State is No. 7 in the women’s Midwest ranking.