Sunner: The state of each major Wichita State sport as the school year begins


Hannah Roberts

Sisters Rebekah (top) and Joanna Topham smile while their mother takes a photo. Rebekah, a sophomore, handily won the mile for Wichita State with a time of 4:46.19 — nearly 17 seconds ahead of the second place finisher. Her little sister is a senior in highschool. She's homeschooled and running for Griswold.

The school year is officially here, but it’s never too early to start looking ahead.

There are plenty of bright spots within Wichita State’s athletic programs, while other teams are looking to rebuild. With that being said, here’s a look at what the state of each major sporting program looks like heading into this school year:

Keeping Up the Success

Cross Country and Track and Field: After a year in the national spotlight, the Shockers should have a case to be in contention again for the 2019-20 school year.

On the women’s side, WSU returns Winny Koseki, who was the 2018 Women’s Cross Country Runner of the Year, Rebekah Topham, who was an NCAA All-American for track, and many other members of the cross country conference championship team from last season. Incoming freshman Erin Topham, Rebekah’s younger cousin, will also be on the team in 2019.

The Shocker men are coming off of a fourth place finish in the AAC last year. They return Clayton Duchatschek, Sean Curran, Zack Penrod, Ben Flowers, and Ethan Kossover. After failing to qualify anyone for nationals in cross country and graduating those who qualified for track, the Shocker men will look to refine their talent and find success this year.


On the Rise

Men’s Basketball: This shouldn’t be a surprise.

After a somewhat disappointing campaign last season, snapping a seven-year run in the NCAA Tournament and getting off to the worst start in the Gregg Marshall era, WSU is looking to make a jump.

Yes, Marshall’s squad made the needed adjustments to sneak into the National Invitational Tournament and run all the way to the semifinals, but the team is still young.

The Shockers lost Markis McDuffie and Samajae Haynes-Jones, but sophomore Dexter Dennis and freshman Grant Sherfield should replace them respectively. The team also has incoming guard Tyson Etienne, who has spent his summer working out with NBA players such as Carmelo Anthony, CJ McCollum, and others.

On the backs of playmakers Jaime Echenique, Erik Stevenson, Asbjørn Midtgaard and Jamarius Burton, the depth chart has what it takes to get back into the big dance.

Scoring the basketball could bring issues to the forefront, but the talent level and athleticism is in no short supply for the team to make an impact this winter.


Softball: Last season was filled with ups and downs, but a young team ultimately turned out an admirable performance.

The Shockers were top-10 in the NCAA in fielding percentage a year ago at 97.6 percent, even after sustaining a long list of injuries. Last year’s team allowed its opponents to just hit .240 on the season, while WSU hit .280 as a team.

The squad returns much of its offensive production from last season, headlined by seniors Ryleigh Buck, Madison Perrigan, and Bailey Lange.

Rounding out the upperclassmen, the Shockers also return Caitlyn Bingham, Wylie Glover, Neleigh Herring, Bailey Nickerson, Hailey Martinez, and Erin McDonald.


Hitting the Restart Button

Baseball: The Todd Butler era is over, and it’s time to start Eric Wedge’s tenure.

Wedge, a former MLB manager of the year, brings a roster full of underclassmen to the forefront for development. Losing Luke Ritter and Jordan Boyer to graduation hurts, but many of the young guys do have some Division-I experience heading into this year.

Keep an eye on sophomore Brady Slavens, who led off for the Shockers last season. Slavens hit just .218 during his freshman campaign, but showed many bright spots toward the future

The Shockers also return Alex Jackson, Jacob Katzfey, Ross Cadena, and Hunter Gibson in the field. On the mound, WSU will still have Ryan Stuempfig, Tommy Barnhouse, Connery Peters, and more as in their arsenal.

The season doesn’t start until February, but the anxiety is already brewing on the diamond to see where the program is heading.


Volleyball: After being picked to win the conference a season ago and failing to record a .500 record, the WSU volleyball team went through a facelift over the offseason.

The Shockers lost 13 members from last year’s team, and only two to graduation — Kali Eaken and Tabitha Brown. All-AAC libero Giorgia Civita will miss the entire 2019 season with a knee injury as well.

This season’s team will likely revolve around Megan Taflinger, who broke out for a team-high 2.97 kills per set and a .206 hitting percentage from the outside last year.

Freshman and Hawaiian native Sina Uluave has also been getting key reps as a hitter so far this preseason. She could also prove to be a vital part of the team this year.

In total, WSU introduces eight true freshmen and 11 newcomers including transfers. A successful future could be on the horizon, but it’s rebuilding time for Chris Lamb and his team.


Looking for a Boost

Women’s Basketball: After going just 12-18 with a young group a season ago, the Shockers are looking for a boost.

Keitha Adams returns key players from the past campaign, most importantly sophomore Carla Bremaud. Bremaud led the team in scoring last season as a freshman, averaging 9.9 points per contest. She also shot 30% from downtown.

Seraphine Bastin will likely return to the starting point guard role after tallying 7.1 points, 4.6 rebounds, and 3.2 assists per game last season.

The Shockers will also depend on Raven Prince, Maya Brewer, Asia Henderson, Jaida Hampton, and Ashley Reid to help bring the team back to prominence.

Junior college transfer Diamond Forrest could also play a factor for Adam’s squad next season.