Outside hitters with the defensive skills to play all six rotations seemed to flow through the Wichita State volleyball program.
Turns out, it’s not automatic that the Shocker lineup will feature an Emily Stockman, Camri Zwiesler or Emily Adney. WSU’s outside hitters are talented, but inexperienced, this season and coach Chris Lamb is looking for consistency. Sophomores Ashlyn Driskill and Katie Reilly are taking most of the swings on the left and Lamb used Monday’s exhibition against the under-23 Italian national team to give sophomore MaryAshton Floyd and redshirt freshman Jaclyn Roddy playing time.
The Shockers (13-3, 3-0 Missouri Valley Conference) play Southern Illinois (7-9, 2-2) at 7 p.m. Friday at Koch Arena. On Saturday, Evansville (6-9, 1-3) visits. Those matches provide two more opportunities for Lamb to work on his outside hitters. Grooming a player for the scoring, passing and digging demands of the position isn’t easy.
“Everybody we have on the left is young,” he said. “None of them really walked in the door as a sure-thing, six-rotation player, but all had the traits to be a passer of a back-row attacker. These six-rotation passing outside hitters who can also score are the aircraft carriers of Division I volleyball and aircraft carriers take some time to build.”
Floyd can grow into part of the answer on the left, if she can take her powerful swings in practice and unleash them during matches. For her, success is a matter of getting confident and getting playing time. The four sets against Italy helped and Lamb is pleased with her carryover this week in practice.
“It’s a little easier to take big swings when you’re building the confidence when you’re out there on the court,” she said. “If I come in, it’s because other people are making. So I’m trying to figure it out and take a couple of swings and get that confidence up.”
Floyd is trying to find the balance between big swings and avoiding attack errors. Like a basketball player who plays timidly to avoid turnovers, she isn’t taking full advantage of her scoring abilities when she swings conservatively.
“You can’t play like that, but we also don’t need mistakes,” Lamb said. “That’s why Italy was so great, just to leave her out there and let her go.”
Entering this weekend, Floyd had played in 10 sets, recording six kills. Floyd took advantage of the playing time against Italy and in practices this week.
“She’s got a lot of tools to be a scorer, if she can be a little more aggressive on less-than-perfect things,” Lamb said. “Getting her on the floor brings a lot of good. She’s one of the more well-rounded players on our team.”
The Shockers are off to a strong start in the MVC, with a win over Missouri State and a win at Northern Iowa, their first at Cedar Falls since 2008. It plays seven of its next nine matches at home.
“I’m feeling that air of confidence in our team grow, knowing that we should win, not that might win,” Floyd said.
Worth noting — The Shockers have won 22 straight against SIU and 22 of the past 23 against Evansville. … WSU middles Ashley Andrade (.451) and Elizabeth Field (.410) rank 1-2 in the MVC in attack percentage. Evansville’s Meaghan Holmes, from Lawrence, (.322) ranks sixth. Junior outside hitter Ashley Ring ranks third in the MVC in kills with an average of 3.80.… SIU outside hitter Jessica Whitehead is second in the MVC in kills with an average of 4.07 a set and second in points at 4.48.