The task of playing with Hawaii, the No. 7 volleyball team in the nation, was just becoming less daunting when all of a sudden the match was over for Wichita State.
The Shockers improved throughout the night, but not quickly enough to avoid a sweep (25-20, 25-20, 25-23) against Hawaii on Saturday night at Koch Arena in part of the Shocker Volleyball Classic.
A 10-match winning streak came to an end in frustrating fashion, as WSU allowed a lead of 17-14 slip away in the third set.
“I wish we were still out there playing,” senior Chelsea Feekin said. “I wish we would have taken them to four, taken them to five.”
Hawaii had little problem winning the first set, but WSU showed signs of promise in the second and third sets.
WSU had the match tied at 16 in the second set and led for the majority of the third, leaving the question of how the match would have turned if the Shockers were able to close out the third set.
It left WSU coach Chris Lamb craving more.
“I’d like to play those guys like five times,” Lamb said.
The most surprising part of Hawaii’s victory was that it did not come from an overwhelming performance from outside hitter Emily Hartong, a 6-foot-2 All-American.
It was from the efficient swings of little-used players such as Nikki Taylor (nine kills) and Kalei Adolpho (seven kills) that hurt the Shockers the most. Not to mention a virtuoso performance from libero Alyssa Longo, who claimed a match-high 20 digs.
“You just didn’t get the errors out of them,” Lamb said. “Those are girls that are a little more error-prone.”
WSU’s offense struggled to find openings against the lengthy Hawaii blockers at the net, as it finished the match hitting a below-average .231.
One highlight was the play of Ashlyn Driskill, who finished a team-high 10 kills, many of which provided the Shockers with a burst of momentum.
“I felt more confident about my hitting,” Driskill said. “I just like to swing away and it’s always a good feeling to get to do that. I’m always wanting to get a kill.”
As the match progressed, WSU began giving Hawaii more problems.
But careless mistakes late in the third set prevented the Shockers from extending the match, as WSU gave Hawaii four of its final six points from self-inflicted errors.
“We were finally getting in a rhythm and scoring points,” Feekin said. “At the end we made a few silly plays and that’s what happens when you have it that close. You can’t do those things.”
It was just the second loss of the season for WSU (11-2), which plays another ranked team in No. 23 Creighton today at 2 p.m. at Koch Arena.
After Saturday night, Lamb is already clamoring about getting in the practice gym come Monday.
“When we finally do get to the gym and practice, there’s some things that I’m going to build for this team and it’s going to make us better,” Lamb said. “We’ve learned some things here about where we need to go with a few of our players.”