Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State volleyball hits the Valley road for first time

October will start before Wichita State’s volleyball team can get into a normal routine of practice and games.

Coach Chris Lamb looked happily to next weekend, when the Shockers play two home matches. Then he remembered Monday’s exhibition against the under-23 Italian national team.

That routine will need to wait. The Shockers (11-3, 1-0 Missouri Valley Conference) travel — again — this weekend, playing Northern Iowa (8-4, 1-0) on Friday and Drake (2-12, 0-2) on Saturday. WSU traveled to Utah, Oregon and Tennessee in August and September before playing four matches in four days at Koch Arena.

Travel to Iowa means another short week. The unusual schedule means practice and preparation suffers.

“We practice Tuesdays and Wednesdays only for the last four weeks,” Lamb said. “We’re missing out. There’s some things we would like to do with our lineup, but ‘we’ve got to play tomorrow night.’”

The lack of practice may be hurting WSU’s inexperienced group of liberos more than any other. That group hasn’t performed up to Lamb’s standards.

“Their talent is greater than their (volleyball) IQ,” Lamb said. “They’re making plays, but we haven’t been able to make a lot of adjustments and play a lot of different defenses. I haven’t had an opportunity to grow their menu of defenses, because we haven’t been practicing.”

Redshirt freshman Dani Mostrom played libero most of the weekend, starting three of the four matches. Junior Jordan Hinkle and freshman Alyssa Carney also played libero, while sophomore Gaby Urban regularly plays as a defensive specialist.

“Digging is the main thing that comes with experience,” Mostrom said. “I feel the more time we get on the court in a game situation, the better we will get. Digging is a lot of reading — where the hitter is approaching, what their arm-swing is like. You never really know where the ball is going to go.”

The Shockers do their best to get in the gym on the road. Being away from school and friends does have advantages.

“Being home is always nice, because you don’t have that stress of traveling,” Mostrom said. “Sometimes when you’re at home, there can be other distractions. Traveling, sometimes, makes you focus more.”

Regardless of the toll that this season’s schedule took, Lamb isn’t going to change his ways. He was thrilled to get Hawaii to leave the islands for a rare road trip. He wants his players to play big-time matches that they will long remember.

“The good teams keep you at the drawing board,” he said. “When you’re beating a bunch of people 3-0, sometimes you think what you’re doing is all you need and you stay comfortable.”

Worth noting — WSU snapped a 10-match losing streak to Northern Iowa in the MVC Tournament last season. The Shockers last won at Cedar Falls in 2008. The Panthers, picked second in the MVC behind WSU, have lost to Utah State, Utah, No. 11 Iowa State and Wisconsin. … UNI middle Shelby Kintzel ranks fourth in the MVC with a hitting percentage of .335. Middle Courtney Kintzel, her sister, leads the MVC with an average of 1.33 blocks. WSU middles Ashley Andrade (.420) and Elizabeth Field (.399) rank first and second in hitting percentage. … UNI setter Kinsey Caldwell, a transfer from UNLV, leads the MVC with an average of 10.96 sets a game. … WSU has won 25 matches in a row against Drake.