The 2013 Shockers return 10 letterwinners and five starters from a team that went 24-10 in 2012 and advanced to the first Sweet 16 in school history. WSU finished third in the Valley with a 13-5 record and earned an at-large berth into the NCAA Tournament.
Head coach Chris Lamb returns for his 14th season with the Shocks having led the team to 10-straight 20-win seasons, six-straight NCAA Tournaments and 11-straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments.
WSU returns five starters including seniors Chelsey Feekin, Elizabeth Field, Ashley Andrade and Sam Sanders and sophomore Ashlyn Driskill. Feekin was a first team all-Valley selection in 2012, while Field earned second team honors and Driskill was named to the all-Freshman team.
All-American Chelsey Feekin returns for the Shockers in 2013 at setter. She averaged 9.90 assists, 1.94 kills, 0.18 aces, 2.70 digs and 0.60 blocks per set last season and hit .435, which ranked fifth nationally. Redshirt freshman Dani Mostrom and freshman Emily Hiebert will provide depth for the Shockers.
“I think Chelsey Feekin has become one of the most elite players that we’ve had here,” Lamb said. “She’s just become such an accurate setter and an underrated defender at her position and a point scorer. She just makes so many contributions and I feel like people need to know how I feel about it. She just does so much for us.”
All-American Emily Adney is gone from the left side after her senior season in 2012. She averaged 2.92 kills, 2.24 digs and 0.27 aces per set last season. Sam Sanders started on the right side in 2012 and returns for her senior season. She averaged 2.31 kills and 0.59 blocks per set and hit .238. Sophomore Ashlyn Driskill, who earned MVC all-freshman team honors and was named to the all-Regional team, started on the left side last season and averaged 2.23 kills and 0.58 digs per set, while sophomore Katie Reilly saw a lot of playing time as a freshman and averaged 1.21 kills and 0.44 blocks per set. Lamb sees Driskill staying on the left side, but everyone else could play on the right or the left including Sanders, Reilly, sophomore MaryAshton Floyd, redshirt freshmen Katy Dudzinski, Taylor Brownlee and Jaclyn Roddy and freshman Jenny Whitledge.
“On paper on the right side, it is Sam Sanders and Katie Reilly, but I have a feeling that this team will be platooning a lot,” Lamb said. “I think you will see a lot of movement. Jaclyn Roddy has gotten so much better and I think she can start to contribute. I’m putting all of these girls into one big group. Ashlyn Driskill will be more exclusively featured as a left side attacker, but the rest will be how we choose to play each rally.”
Second team all-Valley selection Elizabeth Field and fellow senior Ashley Andrade return in the middle for the Shockers in 2013. Field averaged 2.14 kills and 0.73 blocks per set and hit .314, while Andrade averaged 2.24 kills and 0.95 blocks per set and hit .315. Helping out Field and Andrade in the middle will be junior Hannah Eakin, sophomore Kristin Byers and freshmen Abbie Lehman and Natalie Brisso.
“I’d like to say that we are poised to be as good as we’ve ever been in the middle, but Elizabeth Meyers and Jen Ray were so good during their careers that it sounds strange to say that,” Lamb said. “On both sides of the net, attacking and blocking, and the way we hope to be in the middle, I’d like to think we are as advanced there as we’ve ever been.”
The Shockers lose libero Jackie Church who averaged 4.44 digs per set last season. Lamb looks for junior Jordan Hinkle to step into the libero position after serving as a defensive specialist last season. She averaged 1.36 digs per set. Sophomore Gaby Urban, redshirt freshman Dani Mostrom and freshman Alyssa Carney will push Hinkle for the libero spot and compete for time as a defensive specialist.
“The libero spot seems to have been leaning toward Jordan Hinkle,” Lamb said. “She certainly distanced herself as a passer and a defender this spring. I just think day in and day out between all the candidates that we have, Gaby Urban, Alyssa Carney, Dani Mostrom and even MaryAshton Floyd, that it is so wide open.”
Overall, Lamb feels that the spring went well against great competition and that the team has a lot of experience entering the fall even after losing two great players in Adney and Church.
“I mold my expectations on what we look like in the spring,” Lamb said. “We matched up with many high level teams in the spring and I felt like we looked like we belonged in every match we played this spring. I feel like expectations ought to be high and we return a lot of the offense. Having a lot of the moving parts already in place ought to have us prepared to be competitive early and that allows us to raise the bar.”
WSU begins its season Aug. 30 at the La Quinta Inn & Suites Invitational in Orem, Utah, against North Dakota State and opens Valley play on Sept. 19 against Missouri State.
“I’m pretty happy with the schedule walking into the season, but I need these team’s to have good years,” Lamb said. “We need the teams in our non-conference schedule to have winning seasons. Like last year, it looks good right now, but we will hold on to those teams having good years. I’m hopeful that they do, but it is not a given.”