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Wichita State’s Monday starters

Wichita State sophomore Jenny Whitledge hit. 500 with 16 kills and 19 digs against Northern Illinois.
Wichita State sophomore Jenny Whitledge hit. 500 with 16 kills and 19 digs against Northern Illinois. The Wichita Eagle

Highlights of the week ahead:

▪  Wichita State’s volleyball team travels to Milwaukee for the Marquette Invitational. Friday’s 7 p.m. match against Marquette is the big one. The Golden Eagles are 6-3 with wins over Iowa State, Dayton, Miami (Fla.) and Missouri State and losses to Kansas, Oral Roberts and Wyoming. They are picked second in the Big East and own four straight trips to the NCAAs.

WSU also plays IUPUI (7-4 with a win over West Virginia) and Albany (5-4), both on Saturday.

▪  WSU’s men’s tennis team opens at the Midland Invitational on Friday.

▪  WSU’s men’s golf team opens its fall season on Monday in Huntington, W.V.

▪  WSU’s softball team starts its fall scrimmage season with its alumni game at 2 p.m. Saturday and Sunday’s 1 p.m. scrimmage at Saint Gregory’s.

Looking back:

▪  Shockers volleyball debuted at home with a 4-1 record in its tournament. A 3-2 win over No. 21 Kentucky highlighted the weekend, which also included sweeps of South Dakota State and Texas State, a 3-1 win over Northern Illinois and a 3-0 loss to No. 7 Illinois.

Kentucky won’t be ranked when the AVCA poll comes out Monday after a 1-2 weekend, but the Wildcats should be a solid SEC team (they are picked third) and that win should be helpful come December.

One of WSU’s strengths is its athletic ability and versatility in the back row. The roster is loaded with potential six-rotation players and libero Dani Mostrom shows great range tracking balls and is passing effectively. She was joined by her sister Gabi at defensive specialist late in the Kentucky match, ending plans to redshirt her as a sophomore.

Coach Chris Lamb said he saw a need in the back row and assistant coach Sean Carter lobbied to add her to the rotation.

“Gabi’s serve is so tough and she’s doing a good job in the back row, and I just felt that we’re not playing our best this year if Gabi’s not part of that equation,” Lamb said. “In fact, it wasn’t even my idea. Sean was saying ‘Gabi needs to impact this season, she’ll impact this season, let’s get her in there.’ She impacted (the Kentucky match) for sure.”

From a pure fun-to-watch standpoint, sophomore Jenny Whitledge is a ground-covering force when she rotates to the back row. WSU hasn’t had many quicker and bouncier players in recent years and she enthusiastically dives and reaches for balls in and out of her area. Her 16-kill, 19-dig performance against Northern Illinois provided one of the tournament highlights.

▪  Northern Iowa went 2-1 in a tournament in Chicago, defeating Cincinnati and Butler and losing to host Illinois-Chicago. Missouri State picked up a nice win at Western Kentucky, defeating a team that is 8-2 with wins over Wisconsin and Northwestern. The Bears dropped a 3-2 match to Northwestern.

Illinois State improved to 7-2 with three wins at home.

Monday’s reading recommendation:

Moses Malone — our nation’s finest ball-getter, to steal a phrase from Gregg Marshall.

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