Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb saw nothing mysterious or difficult to understand about his team’s 3-2 loss to No. 23 Creighton on Friday at Koch Arena.
Up 2-0 with all the momentum, the Shockers hit a bit of adversity and backed off. The power swung Creighton’s way. Soon, the Bluejays celebrated their first Missouri Valley Conference title with a dramatic comeback, both in the match (22-25, 15-25, 25-16, 25-20, 16-14) and the final set.
“We got blocked four or five times early in that (third set) and I think we stopped swinging,” Lamb said. “Once that match kind of turned a little bit, we stopped getting aggressive.”
The Shockers (19-8, 12-5 MVC) dominated the first two sets, hitting .262 and .433 against the lifeless Bluejays (25-3, 16-1).
“We had them on the ropes coming out strong and loud,” WSU libero Jackie Church said. “That’s what rattles them.”
WSU middle Ashley Andrade totaled eight kills in the first two sets. Right-side Emily Adney added six.
“Wichita hammered us, I mean played so well,” Creighton coach Kirstin Bernthal Booth said.
She said she didn’t need to say much at the break. Her team knew how to regroup. The Bluejays tightened their blocking schemes to cool off WSU’s middles. Their serving improved. It didn’t take long for them to take control at the net and sweep to wins in sets 3 and 4.
WSU’s attackers went away from aggressive swings and tried to tip and roll their way past blockers. Creighton’s defense covered the open spaces too well for that to work. Lamb tried right-side Sam Sanders, who missed the three previous matches with a shoulder injury, but she was ineffective.
WSU finished the match hitting .168 after the hot start. They hit .000 in the third set and .070 in the fourth. Creighton’s 16 blocks doubled WSU’s.
“Wichita had control of the match,” Creighton setter Megan Bober said. “We knew we had to come out with energy. We knew we had to shut down their middles and take them out of system.”
WSU recovered in the fifth set and gave itself a chance to win. Freshman Katie Reilly scored three straight points to give the Shockers a 5-2 lead. Emily Adney’s kill made it 10-6. Setter Chelsey Feekin found middle Ashley Andrade for a quick and an 11-7 lead. After the Bluejays cut the margin to two points, WSU middle Elizabeth Field won a joust at the net with Kelli Browning for a 13-10 lead. Reilly had a swing up 14-13 for the match, but hit into a double block.
Creighton broke the tie and won the match on kills by Leah McNary and Bober.
“They came out aggressive, and that’s the sport of volleyball,” Church said. “That’s what they did.”
WSU, locked into the No. 3 seed in next week’s MVC Tournament, end their home schedule against Drake on Saturday. Lamb saw Friday’s loss as a missed opportunity to build an NCAA at-large resume, not fatal to their hopes. Church, a senior, vowed the Shockers will be rejuvenated by Saturday.
“This will be a great effort,” she said. “Period. We will come out strong.”