Volleyball hopes to build off condensed spring season with younger roster


Sean Marty

Wichita State celebrates after snapping an eight-match losing streak during WSU’s game against Houston on March 26 inside Charles Koch Arena.

The Wichita State volleyball program is nearing the start of its 2021 season and is looking to rebound after an up and down season last spring. The Shockers are set to return many of the key contributors from last year but will also feature a younger roster than in years previous.

The program practiced for three weeks after the end of the season, to help the returners prepare for the upcoming season.

“We had three weeks to practice after we were done playing last year and I thought it was really powerful for our team,” volleyball head coach Chris Lamb said. “It gave us three weeks to prepare with the players we had coming back that were super young, maybe as young as we’ve ever been.”

Lamb said that this year’s team reminds him of the 2014 team because of the youth throughout the roster. That team ultimately made up the core of the 2017 team, which finished with an undefeated 20-0 record in conference play and a trip to the NCAA Tournament.

“These girls are as talented as that group in different ways but it’s exciting because I think we can show improvement this year even though we’re younger than we were,” Lamb said. “I know they’re excited, it’s just a lot of freshmen on the floor, we’ve just got to learn how to work together and find the right systems.”

Last year’s volleyball season faced adversity from the start, with the season being postponed until the spring. The Shockers finished with a 9-8 record in the abbreviated season and a 4-6 season in the AAC play.

The Shockers released its schedule for the 2021 season this past Friday, but Lamb said he’s hoping that there will be no setbacks this season.

“We’re setting sail with that in mind but I’ve got friends at other places that are now in masks and it’s starting to feel like that again,” Lamb said. “So, in the back of my mind, I’m like don’t be too surprised. Right now, it certainly feels way closer to normal.”

The American Athletic Conference announced its preseason awards on Wednesday. Coaches around the conference picked WSU to finish in eighth place after receiving 33 points. Central Florida wss unanimously picked to win the conference after receiving 100 points. UCF’s McKenna Mehlville was also picked as the preseason player of the year.

Sophomore Sophia Rohling was the lone Shocker named to the American Athletic Conference’s Preseason All-Conference Team on Wednesday. Rohling is set to begin her third season with the Shockers and hit .270 and averaged a team- high 3.09 kills per set last season.

“Sophia Rohling is ready to become a busy player for us,” Lamb said. “She’s been fantastic.”

Towards the end of last season the Shockers made strides defensively, with sophomore Lily Liekweg leading the charge at the libero position. Lamb said that momentum has carried over this year.

“We started prioritizing that in a big way,” Lamb said. “We actually, from a conference standpoint, had good defensive numbers
and made a huge jump from the year before. We should be even better. This league, I feel there’s an opportunity to be one of the better defensive teams and we’re going to try to hold on to that crown.”

The Shockers will start the 2021 season on the road at the Arkansas State Invitational as they will take on Missouri State, Tennessee- Martin and Arkansas State from Aug. 27-28.