The fifth set was emblematic of a night in which neither team was able to create separation. Wichita State snagged a quick 7-4 advantage thanks to a pair of blocks and two kills from Brylee Kelly, but Tulane (4-15, 0-7) quickly leveled the ledger at 8-8 and later 11-11 following a service ace from Lauryn Burrows. A Tulane service error and an attack error eased WSU back in front at 13-11, and one point later Sophia Rohling hammered a perfectly placed cross-court swing to give the Shockers match point at 14-12. The Green Wave cut the lead to 14-13 on a kill from Avery Burks, but Wichita State had the answer. After Kelly nearly closed it out on her first attempt at a match winner, the Shockers were able to recycle the point and put another ball in the air for the sixth-year senior, who smashed it off the block and out for her 20th kill of the evening.
Kelly hit a stellar .381 on 42 attempts, committing just four errors. Rohling continued her outstanding season with 19 kills at a .300 clip, and Natalie Foster delivered 14 terminations on just 24 attempts for a .417 hitting percentage. Directing the attack was setter Izzi Strand, who recorded a career-high 60 assists to go along with five kills and 14 digs.
The Shockers had everything working offensively in the first set, matching a season high with 19 kills in the opening stanza. WSU led just 18-17 late in the first, but used a key 4-1 run to seize command, then closed the set out with their first block as Rohling and Foster denied Burks on the left. Rohling finished with seven kills in the set and Kelly had six to pace the Shocker attack.
It seemed Wichita State was well on their way to more of the same in set two, snagging a 16-11 advantage on another Kelly kill. But Burrows went on a long run at the service line for Tulane, picking up two aces to help the Green Wave seize a 20-18 lead. The Shockers could not get back on level terms, as Tulane evened the match at 1-1 with three straight points to close out the set.
Set three was an uphill climb from the outset for WSU, as the Shockers stumbled into a five-point deficit midway through the frame. Wichita State’s patented offensive balance produced five players with exactly three kills, but Tulane was able to fend off each WSU charge. Twice the Shockers cut the margin to two (21-19 and 23-21) but a WSU attack error and a kill from Mackenzie Mahr put the Shockers down two sets to one.
Wichita State’s defense rose to the occasion in the crucial fourth set. The Shockers held Tulane to a .081 hitting percentage, the worst by either team in any set on the evening. An early 6-2 burst put WSU in front to stay, and the Shockers were able to build the largest lead of the evening at 17-9 midway through the fourth. Kelly and Rohling each provided five kills and WSU notched four blocks to force the fifth and deciding set.
The Shockers survived a match-high 24 kills from Burks, who led all scorers. Gabi Maas recorded a match-best 19 digs for the Shockers, and Morgan Stout had seven block assists to go along with nine kills.
Wichita State and Tulane square off again on Saturday afternoon. First serve from Devlin Fieldhouse is scheduled for 12:30 pm.