Volleyball program looks ahead to bright future after fifth place finish in the American


Mia Hennen

After defeating Memphis on Nov. 26, the Shockers celebrate together. They won with a score of 3 – 1.

After being picked to finish eighth out of twelve teams in the American Athletic Conference in the preseason coaches poll, the Wichita State volleyball team wrapped up a fifth place finish in the American on Friday. 

The Shockers lost to Southern Methodist 2-3 (25-19,25-18,23-25,13-25 12-15) in five sets on Wednesday. However, they bounced back for their last game of the season at home on senior night on Friday. The Shockers beat Memphis 3-1 (27-29,25-14,26-24,25-12) in four sets. 

The Shockers’ last two games of the season stand as an example to the competitive matches they played throughout the entire season. WSU had two injured middle blockers, loss of seniors in the program, and minimal scholarships for players. 

“Not only were we going to be younger but most teams in our league were going to be historically older because of that,” head coach Chris Lamb. 

Most of the teams in the AAC had a roster made up of mostly juniors and seniors. However, the Shockers starting lineup usually consisted of freshman, sophomores and one senior. 

Sophomore Kayce Litzau sets the ball during the game against SMU at Charles Koch Arena on Nov. 25. (Lena Ahallaq/ The Sunflower)

Lamb said the difficult situations his team was faced with this season dealt with having other players stepping up. A player that stepped up in order for the Shockers to compete at a high level in their conference this season was sophomore setter Kayce Litzau. Litzau finished the season with 111 total assists and a 10.18 set and assist percentage. 

Litzau was encouraged to redshirt when she first got to Wichita State. However, she decided not to and it worked out for her. She faced times when she was not the starting setter on the court, but Lamb said she pushed past those setbacks. 

“Kayce needed to be stable,” Lamb said. “Kayce needed to be good. Kayce needed to get better and I think we can answer yes to all three of those.” 

The Shocker volleyball team gathers one more time after their 3 – 1 victory over Memphis on Nov. 26. (Mia Hennen)

Lamb said players on his team did not only need to “get better”. They needed to adapt as well. Sophomore outside hitter Brylee Kelly has been at Wichita State for four years and was originally recruited as a passer for the Shockers. 

“So in the 5-1 you are hoping you’ve got an outside hitter that can be a 41 kill percentage kind of kid,” Lamb said. “Brylee is great and perhaps even cooler than that, we brought her along as a passer and back row player.” 

Due to injuries in the middle, freshman middle blockers Natalie Foster and Morgan Stout needed to be able to adjust on the court and step up, according to Lamb. Lamb said the progress from his middles might have been a moment he could say that is when volleyball got easier for his team. 

“I also think often about the play from our two middles,” Lamb said “We rode the wave there but there were nights when you could see next level and their freshman and I plan on being as good in the middle as anybody can be for a while. We have everything we need to do that.” 

Freshman Morgan Stout gets hyped during the game against SMU at Charles Koch Arena on Nov. 25. (Lena Ahallaq/ The Sunflower)

Kelly said she felt like this season was actually “fun” to play and to do it with her current teammates made the season even more special. 

“It was a joy to play this year,” Kelly said. “Everyone on the team contributed to a growing year. We proved people wrong. We are only going to get better from here now and the seniors helped contribute to putting this team and this program in the right direction again so big thanks to them.” 

Lined in the ceiling of Charles Koch Arena are banners from conference championships, national tournament finalists, and more. The Wichita State volleyball program is responsible for several of those banners. However, that is not something that sticks out from this season but rather the improvement of the program. 

“I’m just really proud of where we were last year to the campaign we had this year,” Lamb said. “I told the team I hope this works for them. We don’t have a banner to hang but I’ve been here 22 seasons and this is the farthest we’ve gone from last season to the end of the season. We have a chance to have a very balanced offense for the next few years and that’s on my happy list.”