Shorthanded Shockers win two games in Kansas Invitational, improve to 5-1 on the season


Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower

Freshman Annalie Heliste celebrates during the game against Delaware on Sep 11 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Center.

The Wichita State volleyball team traveled to Lawrence, Kansas and competed in the Kansas Invitational over the weekend. The Shockers finished the weekend 2-1 and improved its record to 5-1 on the season.

The Shockers returned to action this weekend with the Kansas Invitational following a 13-day layoff after they withdrew from last weekend’s SD Invite “due to COVID-19 related issues”. WSU was limited to 12 of its 18 players, including four  starters from its first three games.

The Shockers were able to find some success in Lawrence, going 2-1 and improving its record to 5-1 on the season.

“This is a young, enthusiastic, fun-loving, really seem to appreciate and enjoy each other group,” head coach Chris Lamb said. “It’s been a lot of fun and I think they’ve handled this curveball we’ve been thrown about as well as to be expected.”

Junior Kayce Litzau celebrates during the game against Kent State University on Sep 10 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Center. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

The Shockers opened up the tournament with a victory over Kent State in four sets despite the long layoff. The victory extended WSU’s winning streak to four games.

“I’m extremely happy with our patience and when that team pushed coming back and taking that third set, we were down big and came back,” Lamb said. “It’s exciting to see a young team, a new team basically not folding it up and coming out fierce and making effort plays in that fourth set.”

Head coach Chris Lamb talks to the team during the game against Delaware on Sep 11 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Center. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

In the following match, the Shockers were swept by the hosts, Kansas University, in three sets which led to the first loss of the season. For the match, the Shockers hit .180 and had 26 kills. Individually, freshman Kailin Newsome led the team with 11 kills.

After the loss to KU, one of the things Lamb said he would watch out for was the fight his team showed even through adversity.

“I’m going to measure the energy, I’m going to measure the fight,” Lamb said. “I want to know if we hit rough patches of not being great communicators, I’m going to look for people looking defeated. I know we’re going to try our hardest to stay in it and battle and never give up on it.”

WSU then responded after the tough loss on Friday, defeating Delaware in five sets to close out the weekend. Both teams split the first two sets and in the third set WSU found themselves trailing 19-13 in a pivotal point in the match. WSU responded to closeout the set with a 12-6 run.

Delaware evened up the match with a 25-20 victory in the fourth set. WSU found themselves trailing once again in the fifth set but used a 6-0 run to spark a come-from-behind 15-11 victory to take the match.

Junior Lily Liekweg celebrates during the game against Delaware on Sep 11 at Horejsi Family Volleyball Center. (Khánh Nguyễn/ The Sunflower)

One of the bright spots was the play of WSU’s middles in the absence of starting middle Morgan Stout. Lauren McMahon and Natalie Foster played every set in the weekend with the pair combining for 46 kills in the three matches.

“All of the stuff we’re doing in the middle is new for both of these guys,” Lamb said. “Neither of them are really locking the door with the skillset demands of an M1 and we have two middles, we only had one for the last two weeks of practice. We’re just trying to spoon-feed that thing as much as we can and give it as much attention as we can.”

Freshman outside hitter Kailin Newsome delivered solid performances throughout the weekend, with 39 kills. Newsome also tallied a double-double in two of the three matches.

After only seeing action in one game during WSU’s season-opening tournament two weeks, sophomore Kayce Litzau took on the setter responsibilities in Lawrence. Litzau compiled a total of 119 assists in three matches, including a career-high 54 assists in the victory over Delaware.

The Shockers will return home next weekend with the Shocker Volleyball Classic on Friday. The first match against South Dakota is set to start at 7 a.m. The Shockers will then play Wyoming (11 a.m.) and Creighton (7 p.m.) to wrap up the weekend.