Volleyball set to continue historic run at Sweet 16

The Wichita State volleyball team’s run to the Sweet 16 is special in many ways. 

For one, no other team in the history of the program has ever done it. And the best part is no one else in the country is currently going through it with the Shockers. 

“There is only one team riding the wave we are riding,” WSU volleyball coach Chris Lamb said. “Everybody else is kind of expecting to be here. All the other dreamers of the Sweet 16, they are no longer on our wave. We are the only team that has this feeling right now. We have to be. I think that’s pretty cool. We have to ride it.”

And the way the NCAA Tournament is set up in women’s volleyball, it doesn’t happen too often. 

Unlike in basketball, only the top 16 teams are seeded in the 64-team tournament. The rest are assigned regionally, with a few exceptions. 

This means that even should a team like WSU make it through the first round, they will likely be facing one of the nation’s elite teams in the second round.

The Shockers’ recent seasons have all ended to powerhouse programs like Kansas State, Oklahoma, Iowa State, Texas and Nebraska. 

But this year WSU caught a little bit of a break. After rallying to defeat Arkansas in five sets in the opening round, WSU faced Kansas in the second round. 

Trailing 1-0 in the match, the Shockers cruised past the Jayhawks in the next three to get the historic victory. 

“It was one of those moments you are never going to forget,” junior middle blocker Ashley Andrade said. “To be able to share it with my other teammates and know we are the first ones ever to do this, it was one of those things where we are trying to soak it all in.”

Now the Shockers will be forced to put their emotions aside as they try to keep this run going. WSU will travel to Austin, Texas, for its regional against the University of Southern California on Friday. 

The Trojans are 29-5 and ranked No. 4 in the country. The winner will get either No. 15 Florida or No. 3 Texas in the regional final on Saturday. 

“If you don’t know who the Trojans are you’ve been in a coma,” Lamb joked. “You don’t have to live in California. These guys are great. They have been to a few Final Fours recently.”

As impressive as the Trojans may be on paper, the Shockers believe they have an advantage. As well known as USC is, WSU rarely gets any national attention.

This means USC is likely to not know WSU as well as WSU will know the Trojans. 

When I say we are good against strangers, not that we don’t know who they are, I don’t think they have a clue who we are,” Lamb said. “We are more of a stranger to them than they are to us.”

Despite being a major underdog in the contest, Lamb has created a team that has accepted this fact. He has also created a team that won’t back down from anyone, including USC.

“We are here to win. That’s what we want to do. That’s our goal,” senior libero Jackie Church said. “We do have business to take care of. I won’t stop smiling, but I know that I have a game again on Friday.”

Friday’s match against USC begins at 5 p.m. and can be seen on ESPN3.