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Wichita State volleyball falls to No. 23 Creighton

  • The Wichita Eagle
  • Published Sunday, Sep. 22, 2013, at 8:32 p.m.
  • Updated Sunday, Sep. 22, 2013, at 8:50 p.m.

Patience in the process of organizing Wichita State’s volleyball team in a way that accentuates each player’s best attributes isn’t coach Chris Lamb’s strongest asset.

Confidence that he can complete the process, however, is among Lamb’s strengths.

That’s why WSU’s five-set loss (16-25, 25-18, 25-20, 18-25, 15-9) to former Missouri Valley Conference rival Creighton offered Lamb just as much encouragement as disappointment. The Shockers, now 11-3 with three losses against nationally-ranked teams, endured similar growing pains early last season before reaching the Sweet 16.

Lamb is still tinkering with combinations and floor spacing, and consecutive losses in the Shocker Classic, including Saturday’s defeat against Hawaii, could lead the Shockers to make those corrections more quickly.

“We’ve definitely proven we can beat the teams we’re supposed to beat, we’re just not quite there yet,” Lamb said. “And I’m OK with that. We’ll get there. We were that team last year.”

“…Obviously I don’t want to wait forever to fix some of these problems, but we’re going to work on it and we’re going to fix it.”

Lamb is particularly concerned with fixing the defense, which will take minor adjustments since, as he says, “We have no bad defensive numbers.”

Sunday against the 23rd-ranked Bluejays, WSU had more digs and limited the Bluejays to four fewer kills, so in most statistics the Shockers’ defense was evenly matched. One difference, however, was Creighton’s blocking, which it used to grab momentum after WSU won the first set.

The Bluejays had four blocks in the second set and 14 overall, five more than WSU. Lamb attributed that to broken plays by the Shockers, but it appeared at times that Creighton’s height and timing were getting to WSU.

In that second set, WSU hit .081, with Ashley Andrade’s five kills and one error keeping the Shockers from a negative hitting percentage. Lamb said Creighton had the advantage in the back row, and the statistics proved that.

Creighton setter Michelle Sicner provided many dimensions beyond her 45 sets. Sicner often came to the net, producing seven block assists and six kills. Her back-row play allowed her to accumulate a team-high 14 digs.

Creighton defensive specialist Kate Elman had five assists, 13 digs, one kill and two service aces. WSU also had trouble containing front-line hitter Leah McNary, whose leaping ability carried her to a match-best 17 kills.

“A couple times I was just not paying attention to the blocks sometimes and not seeing where defenders are,” Andrade said. “It’s a huge part of what we do – we don’t just go up and hit and expect to get a kill. There’s a lot of things that go into our approaches and go into where we’re hitting the ball. You have to see everything that’s going on.”

Creighton’s blockers sometimes affected WSU’s hitting, as the Shockers occasionally attempted spikes from farther behind the net than usual or tried to finesse balls softly over instead of relying on the power of Andrade and fellow hitter Ashlyn Driskill.

That power returned after sluggish second and third sets that put the Shockers behind 2-1. Creighton scored the first point and led 6-5 at one point, but WSU carried the advantage the rest of the way as Driskill and Andrade combined for eight kills and two blocks.

WSU stayed with Creighton for the first half of the 15-point final set, trailing 8-7 before the Bluejays tallied seven of the final nine points. Three of those came on blocks.

“We’re constantly making adjustments, and you ride the wave,” Lamb said. “You’re hoping that along the way you make a few more highlight-reel type plays than they do, because they change rallies. A few like there are a few more spectacular plays that we’re seeing on the other side than we’re seeing on our side defensively.”

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