Know the opponents: Wichita State travels to California for the Mustang Challenge


Easton Thompson

Wichita State teammembers congratulate Kansas University on their win of the exhibition on Aug. 17 in Charles Koch Arena.

The Wichita State volleyball team travels to California on Thursday for the Mustang Challenge hosted by Cal Poly.

The Shockers, coming off of a 2-1 weekend in the Penn State Classic, are set to face San Jose State on Thursday at 6 p.m., Cal Poly on Friday at 9 p.m., and North Texas on Saturday at 2 p.m. The Mustang Challenge will be the last set of matches before WSU’s home opener against BYU on Sept. 12.

Here’s what to know about the Shockers’ upcoming opponents:

San Jose State (1-2)

San Jose State kicked off its season in the Aggie Classic, which was hosted by UC Davis. The Spartans lost their first two matches on the weekend before tallying a win against Montana.

As a team, the Spartans are out-hitting opponents 127-106 with a .237 hitting percentage. However, through three matches, the team already has 52 hitting errors and 20 reception errors.

Individually, San Jose State is led by sophomore middle blocker Haylee Nelson, who has a team-high 27 kills. Caitlin Bettenay, 24 kills, and Thaliana Grajeda, 22 kills, help round out the team’s main offensive production.

Last year, the Spartans finished the year with a record of 16-11.

Cal Poly (0-3)

Heading into the season, Cal Poly was selected as the No. 22 team in the country according to AVCA polls, and No. 23 by the NCAA. But the Mustangs now find themselves unranked after dropping three straight games to start the season in the University of Utah Tournament. The Mustangs’ three losses on the young season already match their loss total from last year, when they went 25-3.

So far this season, Cal Poly is getting outhit 143-117 and hitting just .111 percent as a team. The Mustangs have recorded 26 service errors and 11 reception errors so far. On offense, junior outside hitter Maia Dvoracek leads the team with 32 kills in 11 sets played.

In 2018, Cal Poly earned a birth in the NCAA Tournament after winning the Big West Conference outright. The Mustangs were picked to win the Big West again this season.

North Texas (2-1)

North Texas is the only team in the tournament besides WSU with an above-.500 record. The Mean Green have topped Pepperdine and Tulsa, with their one loss coming at the hands of Illinois State.

As a team, North Texas is being outhit 176-138 and is hitting .199 percent so far. In total, the team has 19 receiving errors and 18 service errors.

The Mean Green offensive attack is led by a three-headed monster of Valerie Valerian, Rhett Robinson, and Sarah Haeussler. Valerian has tallied a team-high 44 kills. Robinson, 33 kills, and Haeussler, 26 kills, are formidable in their own right.

Last season, North Texas went 19-17. WSU and UNT met a total of three times in 2018 with the Mean Green besting the Shockers twice.