TERRE HAUTE —
Indiana State volleyball coach Traci Dahl led the Sycamores to the end of a seven-year drought, guiding the program to the Missouri Valley Conference Tournament last season for the first time since 2004 and eighth time overall.
Sustaining that success has been difficult this season as ISU takes a 3-18 overall record and 1-10 MVC mark into a trip at rival Illinois State this weekend.
But two seniors are determined to help ISU turn things around with seven league matches left.
Former Martinsville standout Shea Doran is third in the conference in kills per set with an average of 3.72. The 6-foot-3 middle hitter has built off a momentous finish to her junior year when she brought home All-Tournament team accolades from ISU’s trip to the conference tournament.
“I don’t think I came on strong until last year when I came into my own,” Doran said. “I had the pleasure of playing with some great teammates. The three seniors last year [Kiya James, Stacy Qualizza and Shelbi Fouty], I was really close with them and had a connection on the court, and that was something that helped me be really comfortable and just play. This year, I’ve got great teammates, great chemistry. Playing for your teammates like that is something that helps your confidence.
Christie Fullenkamp has also moved into the top 10 in the MVC in kills per set, ranking seventh at 3.45.
Fullenkamp’s emergence means the team, which includes multiple freshmen playing a lot of points, is more than a one-woman show.
“In the beginning of the season, it was all about Shea. She was getting like 60 or 70 attempts and the next person would have like 30. You can’t have that type of situation,” Dahl said.
“Now we’ve got Christie Fullenkamp stepping up. She’s matching Shea. Now we’ve got more people stepping up. She was getting double-blocked, they were scouting Shea, now they have to scout other people.”
ISU had hoped to have another big offensive weapon. But injury struck senior outside hitter Morgan Dall, who led a balanced attack of four last season with 299 kills while playing just 20 of the 31 matches. Dall suffered a serious foot injury that will keep her off the court all season. She’ll use a medical redshirt season and return to the Sycamores’ lineup in 2013.
“Morgan was here over the summer and I live with Morgan. It was tough to deal with, her being a senior and one of the rocks on this team,” Doran said. “It was difficult to not have her on the court. Our team just had to keep going because injuries happen in sports.”
Frustration has continued to be a theme this season, with the Sycamores coming out on the wrong end of seven five-game matches.
“We’ve played seven fifth-game matches, and even though it’s frustrating to lose that many, it’s still, we’re right there and we’re very competitive when we put everything together. We’re going to put everything together eventually,” Doran said.
Fullenkamp is staying positive that ISU can turn it around.
“We start out bad in the fifth game. If we start out strong, thinking we can do this … We just have to worry about point-for-point in the fifth game,” Fullenkamp said.
Dahl has been pleased with her senior duo as she continues to develop young players.
“She’s taken it upon herself to put the team on her shoulders and run with it,” Dahl said of Doran. “Fullenkamp has definitely stepped it up this year. Now we’ve got a solid two athletes producing double-digit kills. Intermittently, we’ll have some of the freshmen step it up.”
Doran sees the Sycamores becoming a consistent winner if the trends of the last few years continue.
“It’s totally different from now to my freshman year, from the type of girls that are here now to the team chemistry. We have a great athletic department and coaching staff that’s very supportive,” Doran said. “The girls that keep coming in are great. It’s so much more positive and been getting better every single year. This year, secodn round of conference, we just have to put it together and get our record to show that.”