Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb breaks down the road to deception as good information, no information and bad information.
If a setter gives the defense good information about where the ball is going, that's bad for the offense. No information is a step in the right direction because at least it delays the blockers.
Bad information is the best. Selling a fake to blockers gives hitters open lanes for a kill.
"If you give out bad information, they'll guess wrong and they won't recover, and now they, perhaps, won't even try to block," Lamb said. "It can be a difference in a couple inches, which can be the difference between getting a hit or a block, or changing their shot, or scoring."
Sophomore Mary Elizabeth Hooper is getting better at faking out the defense with each match, as last weekend's wins over Drake and Creighton showed. The Shockers (18-4, 9-3 MVC) travel to Southern Illinois (17-7, 6-7) tonight and play at Evansville (13-12, 6-7) on Saturday.
WSU hit .324 against Drake and .278 against Creighton, the Missouri Valley Conference's best blocking team. "It's very hard, and lots of practice has to happen for it occur," Hooper said. "The hitters helped a lot against Creighton, by picking opposite routes of Creighton's middles."
Selling those fakes, or removing tells, is a complicated part of a setter's life.
"It helps a lot, because the hitters get one-on-one," middle Sarah McGee said. "By her faking out blockers, it makes it a lot easier to attack select."
Last season, Lamb wanted Hooper to focus on location. With a year of experience, she is polishing the finer points of using her body as a decoy. Over and over against Creighton, she was able to fake the blockers by arching her back as if preparing to set over her head. Instead, she set forward. Sometimes she would do the reverse.
"It's fun when you know you get them like that," Hooper said.
When in the front row, her ability to score on the setter dump occupied blockers and freed up hitters.
"When I jump, their middles jump with me in case I throw it, so they can block," Hooper said. "That means both of the outside pins are one-on-one, instead of having two blockers."
Hooper and the hitters must figure out their routes in the split second that it takes for the pass to reach her. It takes a lot of communication and a lot of repetition for them to work together. As the ball is coming to Hooper, hitters are watching blockers and telling her where to set.
"It's a big communication triangle, trying to fake them out," Hooper said.
WSU scouts setters by looking for clues, such as how they hold their hands or arch their back or drop their ponytail. Tendencies for location are also noted.
"There's a whole list of things that are likely to happen, so you start to find out which things you can grab and you use that to your advantage," Lamb said. "A setter's job is to try to, at best, give out no information, but at times give you bad information."
Notes _ WSU's Emily Stockman leads the MVC with an average of 3.97 kills a set. SIU's Jennifer Berwanger is second at 3.61. Hooper leads the conference with an average of 10.94 assists, followed by SIU's Rachael Brown at 10.83... WSU is No. 26 in this week's NCAA RPI rankings. Northern Iowa is No. 24 and Missouri State is No. 45. SIU (No. 95) and Drake (No. 97) are also in the top 100...Illinois State is in danger of not making the conference tournament for the first time. The Redbirds are in eighth place. The top six qualify. Illinois State has played in 27 straight tournaments, dating to 1982.