Volleyball is primed to regain Valley control

The Wichita State volleyball team’s ranking as the third best team in the Missouri Valley Conference preseason poll bothers the team members.

However, instead of letting the designation discourage them, the Shockers are taking an aggressive approach.

“I think that it fires all of us up that we were picked third,” senior Jackie Church said. “Yeah, we did lose key components, but the Valley has no idea what’s coming at them this year, because we’re going to come back at them stronger than ever.”

The team worked to fill the void left from last year’s team by three seniors who graduated. Church and senior Emily Adney are now in leadership roles to help guide the younger, less experienced players.

 “I think that they were all important parts of our team obviously, but people that have been here for a long time are ready to take their spots,” Adney said. “I’m just trying to play hard and making sure that everyone on the court is playing hard and trying their best.”

The volleyball team starts its season Friday at the NIU Invitational Tournament in DeKalb, Ill. WSU plays New Mexico State Friday, followed by Saturday and Sunday games against Northern Illinois and North Dakota State. 

“It will set the tone, coming out on fire. We’re expecting tough matches so we need to come back with three wins,” Church said.

The opening tournament to the team’s season is only the beginning to the tough competition WSU faces this season. The Shockers’ first home games are Aug. 30, 31 and Sept. 2 against Colorado State, BYU and Tennessee. After its home tournament, WSU competes against SMU, Auburn and Texas State on the road.

“We have tough competition in the beginning of the year; it’s going to be high swinging hitters, girls that are potential Olympians we’ll be playing against, so it’s going to be a big challenge to start off with,” Church said. “It’s always like that every year, and we come back with those wins that we expect of ourselves, so we’re hoping this year we can come out with those wins.”

Church and Adney were key components to last year’s team, as well as junior Ashley Andrade. Church, a libero, was 16th in the MVC in service aces per set, and finished the season with two kills, 35 assists, 23 service aces and 244 digs. 

Adney finished second in the MVC for points per set and kills per set as an outside hitter last season. Adney’s hitting average was .260 and she ended the season with 382 kills. 

Junior Ashley Andrade, a middle blocker, was second in the MVC in hitting percentage last season with a .353 average, 229 kills, 23 service aces, 13 solo blocks and 106 block assists. Andrade and Adney were named to the MVC preseason all-conference team.

“I keep telling myself I want to go undefeated here. I’ve never won a Valley Conference and a Valley Conference Tournament. Just to go through the Valley and dominate it and get a bid through would make my senior season so special,” Church said. “People aren’t expecting to see such a high level in Kansas, in Wichita, that we’re competing at.”

“Last year was really exciting. We did really well, but this year I think we’re better and that’s even more exciting,” Adney said