Wichita State swept Southern Illinois, ruled the important statistical categories and remained unbeaten in Missouri Valley Conference volleyball. That sounds easy, and Friday’s match really wasn’t.
“They’re just super scrappy,” WSU senior Ashley Andrade said. “They definitely were a team that would put their bodies on the floor for everything.”
Wichita State (14-3, 4-0 MVC) survived a rash of hitting errors to overpower SIU 25-23, 25-19, 25-21 at Koch Arena. No matter its other failings, WSU could always go to right-side Sam Sanders and middles Elizabeth Field and Ashley Andrade for points.
The Salukis (7-10, 2-3) couldn’t disrupt WSU’s offense and setter Chelsey Feekin gave those seniors plenty of fast, accurate sets.
“There are tempos going on that are difficult for anybody to defend,” SIU coach Justin Ingram said. “It starts with their serve-receive. Anytime Feekin gets up by the net, it’s difficult.”
Andrade led WSU with 11 kills, hitting .429. Field added nine kills and a .318 attack percentage. Sanders added seven kills in the first two sets and finished with eight and hit .471. With those three rolling, the struggles of WSU’s outside hitters didn’t matter as much. Katie Reilly and Ashlyn Driskill combined for 11 attack errors.
Feekin contributed seven kills on 10 swings, as well as 37 assists and nine digs. When WSU’s passing allowed her to take up residence near the net, she accurately fed Andrade and Field on a variety of quicks and slides. Andrade had five kills in the first set and five more in the third.
“Even when they hit them at defenders, they hit them so well it’s hard to dig,” Feekin said. “It’s so fast that nobody can get ready and the blockers can’t get eyes on the hitters fast enough.”
The Shockers took an 8-1 lead in the first set before SIU regained its composure, building a 16-12 lead, and made it a tough set. In the second set, WSU led 20-18 before a 5-1 run ended it. WSU led 9-3 in the third set and allowed SIU to cut the margin to two points four times before it pulled away.
“They played well enough during the course of those three sets to pull it out,” Ingram said. “We’re just not quite there to finish these sets.”
Jessica Whitehead led SIU with 11 kills, eight in the first two sets, although she hit .194. The Shockers limited her damage in the third set with better execution.
“Chelsey and Sam and Elizabeth finally had to realize that if they didn’t get out there, we were in trouble,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “The front row had to be in the right spot, otherwise (libero Dani Mostrom) had no chance. We weren’t disciplined at right-front early in that match.”