The 2012 Shockers return seven letterwinners and four starters from a team that went 21-11 in 2011. 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 13th season with the Shocks having led the team to nine-straight 20-win seasons, five-straight NCAA Tournaments and 10-straight Missouri Valley Conference Tournaments.
WSU returns four starters including senior Emily Adney and juniors Ashley Andrade, Elizabeth Field and Sam Sanders. Adney was a first team all-Valley selection in 2011, while Andrade and Field both earned second team honors.
The Shockers lose four-time first team all-Valley selection Mary Elizabeth Hooper at setter. Last season, Hooper averaged 10.41 assists, 0.92 kills, 2.04 digs and 0.46 blocks per set. Junior Chelsey Feekin will step into the starting setter role after seeing limited time her first two seasons. Backing up Feekin will be redshirt freshman Jordan Loney and freshman Dani Mostrom.
"Obviously anytime you graduate a starter, there are often drastic changes from one year to the next, but in this case Chelsey has been training with us for a long time," Lamb said. "She is very talented and she is accurate. So what I keep telling people is that this transition will be as seamless as I think you can make it given the fact that we graduated an exceptional player. My expectation is that we can even be better."
Sam Sanders started on the right side in 2011 and returns for her junior season. She averaged 1.92 kills and 0.56 blocks per set. A lot of players could see time on the right side including Sanders, junior Elizabeth Field, and freshmen Katie Reilly, Ashlyn Driskill, Taylor Brownlee and Jaclyn Roddy. Freshman Katy Dudzinski is out with a broken right foot.
"The right side is interesting," Lamb said. "A lot of people are spending a lot of time there. You are going to see Katie Reilly, Sam Sanders and Elizabeth Field all spending a lot of time over there. We expect the right side to be upgraded from last year from a point-scoring standpoint."
The Shockers return all-Valley selection Emily Adney to the left side in 2012 and lose MVC Defensive Player-of-the-Year Camri Zwiesler. In 2011, Adney averaged 3.41 kills, 1.54 digs and 0.68 blocks per set, while Zwiesler averaged 3.10 kills, 3.34 digs and 0.51 blocks per set. The left side is very deep as juniors Sam Sanders and Elizabeth Field and freshmen Ashlyn Driskill, MaryAshton Floyd, Katie Reilly, Taylor Brownlee, and Jaclyn Roddy could all fight for playing time.
"The left side is a little bit in flux," Lamb said. "Obviously Emily Adney, a returning starter over there, is great, but we will also be putting some other people over there. You will see Ashlyn Driskill, Katie Reilly and Sam Sanders for sure. You might also see Elizabeth Field. She has been putting some time in over there. Other young people like MaryAshton Floyd could also be in the mix."
Second team all-Valley selections Ashley Andrade and Elizabeth Field return in the middle for the Shockers in 2012. Andrade averaged 2.04 kills and 1.06 blocks per set last season, while Field averaged 2.19 kills and 0.88 blocks per set. Helping out Andrade and Field in the middle will be sophomores Hannah Eakin and Kristin Byers.
"We return a couple of girls in Elizabeth Field and Ashley Andrade that have been starters and been very good," Lamb said. "We expect them both offensively and defensively to be as good as ever. This group has the ability to be as productive as we've ever been in the middle."
The Shockers lose libero Sarah Waldorf who averaged 5.11 digs per set last season. Senior Jackie Church will step into the libero position after serving as a defensive specialist last season. She averaged 2.18 digs and 0.21 aces per set. Sophomores Kelsey Banwart and Jordan Hinkle along with redshirt freshman Gaby Urban and true freshman Dani Mostrom will compete for time as a defensive specialist.
"Jackie has separated herself from the mix," Lamb said. "Her passing, her court presence and her defensive range are all exceptional. "I'm expecting her to match the passing standards set by Karen Augspurger and the digging standards set by Kelly Broussard. It won't surprise me if Jackie has as good a year at the libero position as anyone we've ever had here. She is playing at that level right now."
Overall, Lamb enjoyed working with the team in the spring and feels like the transition is going well after losing three great players in Hooper, Zwiesler and Waldorf.
"I had a lot of fun with this team in the spring," Lamb said. "We walked away from the spring feeling pretty good about our performance. I'm really excited that this transition from graduating three great players to putting a new team on the floor is seemingly going as well as it is."
WSU begins its season Aug. 24 at the NIU Invitational in DeKalb, Ill., against New Mexico State and opens Valley play on Sept. 14 at Drake.
"Hard to argue that this might be the best schedule we've ever put together," Lamb said. "I want to believe that this team can compete at the NCAA level and that this team can knock on the door of being in the coaches poll. The only way to validate that is to play those kinds of teams and do well. It's hard to sell that if you don't go out and play people and we have a great schedule from that standpoint."