Shockers rally to defeat South Dakota in five sets

Wichita State rallied to defeat South Dakota in five sets in its home opener and the first game of the Shocker Volleyball Classic on Friday. The victory improved WSU’s record to 6-1 on the season.

The Shockers took two of the first three sets but were unable to close it out in the fourth set. WSU took a late 13-8 lead in the decisive, fifth set but South Dakota battled back to tie the game at 13, with a 5-0 run. 

The Shockers regrouped to finish off the match, with sophomore Kayce Litzau clinching the match with a service ace.

“I think that’s the big difference in the past teams, too,” redshirt sophomore Brylee Kelly said. “We’re still so young but it shows that we still have grit and we can fight. We were a little rattled and then we got in the huddle and composed ourselves and they made a serving error and everything kind of fell in our favor. It shows that we’re kind of mature for being so young.”

The Shockers improved to 3-0 on the season in five-set matches, with prior victories over Arkansas State and Delaware. Head coach Chris Lamb said that he’s been impressed with how his team has overcame adversity early on this season.

“We turn around and bounce back, credit to Sean (Carter) and Chelsea (Scott) also. We’re starting to be able to make adjustments with our very young team,” Lamb said. “There’s 50 things I might want to do out there and we’re on number four. We feel fortunate to come out on top.”

Redshirt sophomore Brylee Kelly led the way in the match with a game-high 18 kills in her first game back in over two weeks. Kelly said she only practiced for three days leading up to the game due to quarantine and struggled to regain her rhythm early on.

“I got three practices in and I just knew that I could help impact the team and we were growing already without the players we had,” Kelly said. “I just fought my way through it, I took 14 days off so I’m a little rusty but the team was there to cheer me on and let me know I can do it. That’s what’s great about this team this year is we all have each other’s backs.”

Although the Shockers returned to full strength at practice earlier this week, they remained shorthanded against the Coyotes. WSU was limited to only two middles in the match after Lauren McMahon and Addy Badley were unavailable. 

“I think each individual on this team has an impact on our progress and when we lose players no matter who it is, even if they don’t necessarily play on the court they have such an impact in practice,” Kelly said. “It is a disadvantage to our team, so we almost have a full team right now and when we get our full team back it’s going to be better than ever.”

The shorthanded roster has played a big role for setter Kayce Litzau – who finished with 42 assists – in finding some chemistry with the hitters. Litzau said that practice is typically where they work on that, but those reps have limited so far this season.

“It’s really important to get our team chemistry going and for me, setting the hitters like I didn’t have 14 days with Brylee so we had a few missed connections out there but we know we just have to keep working on it,” Litzau said. “It’s just a matter of getting the reps in.”

The Shockers will wrap up the Shocker Volleyball Classic tomorrow with games against Wyoming (10 a.m.) and No. 18 Creighton (7 p.m.) inside Charles Koch Arena. Both games will also be broadcast on ESPN=.

“I’m super impressed,” Litzau said. “Even like today when we’re down, we don’t give up, we keep working at it and that’s how it’s been. I feel like COVID has really told us that you can’t stop, you just have to keep working, keep going day-by-day, you can’t predict more than a day ahead.”