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Volleyball not relying on at-large chances

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The Sunflower

The Sunflower

The Sunflower

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Despite finishing the regular season on a seven-game winning streak, Wichita State volleyball finished second in the Missouri Valley Conference standings behind Missouri State with a 15-3 record in conference play.

The Shockers have an overall record of 22-7 and are ranked 37th in the RPI rankings. The team, however, does not want to rely on one of the 32 at-large bids to the NCAA Tournament in December.

“We have talked about that quite a bit in practice lately,” senior middle blocker Katy Dudzinski said. “We have a nice record and are sitting at a decent RPI to be considered for an at-large bid. However, we know we cannot count on that.”

WSU is 3-6 against teams ranked in the RPI’s Top 50. The Shockers claimed victories against Creighton on a neutral court, Marquette at home, and defeated MSU in Springfield, Missouri.

Their only loss outside of the RPI Top 50 was against the University of Texas at San Antonio on UTSA’s home floor in five sets.

“We know that our RPI is in a pretty good spot because of our non-conference schedule,” junior libero Hanna Shelton said. “We played a lot of tough teams early, and got a couple good wins which will help our chances of an at-large bid.”

The Shockers dropped two matches at home to MSU and Northern Iowa, both who are ranked in the RPI’s Top 50. Sitting with a 15-7 record, WSU dropped to a tie for third in the MVC standings and did not want to put themselves in a tougher situation to play in December.

WSU ended their season on a seven-game winning streak, giving up only one set loss to Illinois State on Nov. 11.

“After our losses to Missouri State and UNI at home, we knew we had to pick up the intensity and could not lose anymore,” junior setter Emily Hiebert said. “We started working on a new rotation and it has been working for us very well.

Earning the No. 2 seed in the MVC Tournament, the Shockers will have a bye from the quarterfinal round on Thursday. WSU will play the winner between UNI and Loyola on Friday in Cedar Falls, Iowa.

Their task of winning those two games to claim the MVC’s automatic berth to the NCAA Tournament is not going to be an easy one, as two of their potential opponents handed the Shockers their only losses in conference play. A potential match with UNI on Panther territory could send the Shockers home early, with UNI winning 3-1 during the regular season when WSU came to town.

The MVC sent four teams to the NCAA Tournament last season and will likely be a multiple-bid league again if a team other than one the top three seeds claims the automatic bid.

While the Shockers have polished their resumé for the selection committee, they want to watch the NCAA Tournament selection show to see where they’re playing instead of if they’re playing.

“Most of the other teams at the conference tournament are in must win situations because of their RPI,” Shelton said. “We still have the mindset that we are going to go there and win the tournament.”

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