Wichita State Shockers

WSU volleyball wants big win

Wichita State’s volleyball team is in fourth place in the Missouri Valley Conference, with nine wins against teams below it in the standings and four losses to the top three teams.

Third-place Missouri State (17-8, 10-3 MVC) visits Koch Arena on Friday and the Shockers (15-8, 9-4) say it is time to build confidence for postseason play. If WSU wants to return to the NCAA Tournament for an eighth straight season, it must win the automatic bid in the conference tournament.

“It’s been a long time since we just won a big game,” junior outside hitter MaryAshton Floyd said. “It would be good for us to come out here, and not just barely win, but decisively beat a good team.”

The Shockers lost to first-place Illinois State at home in the MVC opener, dropped two matches to second-place Northern Iowa and lost 3-2 at Missouri State in early October. Friday’s match and a Nov. 22 rematch at Illinois State are WSU’s remaining chances to make some kind of statement.

“We keep saying it’s a process, but we don’t have that much time for the process to keep continuing,” junior middle Katie Reilly said. “For our record and standings, we need this win, but also, I think, to build confidence and energy again and positive vibe for the post-season.”

WSU’s ability to handle the rest of the MVC is keeping it in the race for the second seed, and a first-round bye, in the MVC Tournament. It won five straight matches, four by sweep, before Saturday’s 3-1 loss at Northern Iowa. Floyd and junior Ashlyn Driskill are taking on larger responsibilities in the offense.

Driskill is averaging 3.36 kills and hitting .345 on the left in her past seven matches. Floyd, in her past six matches, is averaging 3.33 kills and hitting .343. Both tied career-highs against UNI —Driskill with 20 and Floyd with 16.

“We’ve kind of found a nice niche for (Floyd),” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “She’s aggressive. She hits with a lot of range and she takes good out-of-system swings.”

WSU’s effort at MSU in the first meeting encouraged Lamb. The Shockers hit .215 while pushing the Bears to a fifth set before losing 15-10. Middle Abbie Lehman led WSU with 16 kills and hit .500.

“We went into that thing kind of exploring,” Lamb said. “It was one of those matches where we were constantly searching, but always competitive. We learned a lot from that day.”

Worth noting — The Bears lead the MVC in hitting percentage at .243, with WSU fourth at .235.… Lehman ranks second in the MVC with a .382 attack percentage. MSU’s Andrea Beaty is fifth at .336. Freshman Lily Johnson ranks second in the conference with an average of 4.04 kills and is tied for first in aces with an average of .34 a set.… MSU’s win earlier this season snapped WSU’s seven-match win streak in the series.

Reach Paul Suellentrop at 316-269-6760 or psuellentrop@wichitaeagle.com. Follow him on Twitter: @paulsuellentrop.

Missouri State at Wichita State

When: 7 p.m. Friday

Where: Koch Arena

Records: MSU 17-8, 10-3; WSU 15-8, 9-4

TV: Cox 22