Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb isn't sure why the Shockers struggled to handle Evansville's serving early in Friday's match.
The whole serve-and-receive thing might be in his team's head. The Shockers are trying to avoid service errors, so they aren't serving as aggressively in practice.
"When you're pressing on the service line, you don't serve as tough," Lamb said. "So maybe we're not facing the same kind of heat in practice that we need to be."
It took WSU two sets to figure out the Aces in a 3-1 (25-19, 23-25, 25-11, 25-19) victory. After the break, the Shockers got organized and cruised to their seventh straight win at Koch Arena.
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"We usually always win the serving and passing game, and it hasn't been like that lately," WSU outside hitter Emily Stockman said. "We're all really focused on making it better because we know we're better than that. We need to win that part of the game."
Evansville (10-8, 3-3 Missouri Valley Conference) aced the Shockers five times in the second set. It managed just one more in the final two sets. WSU's back row took the serves and turned them into good passes to start the offense.
The improvement showed up immediately in the third set. WSU (13-3, 4-2) led 8-2 on its way to a 20-8 edge. The Shockers hit .312 in the set. The fourth set unfolded in much the same way. WSU led 7-1 before Aces coach Mike Swan called time-out. The Shockers extended that lead to 17-9 before Evansville cut the lead to 20-17. A net violation and an attack error gave WSU a five-point cushion.
The good passing produced the variety on offense that Lamb wants. Stockman led WSU with 17 kills. Setter Mary Elizabeth Hooper found Kim Wadsworth for 12 kills and Katie Niggemeyer for 10. Sarah McGee and Amanda Backes both added eight.
"We need to get to that," Lamb said. "We weren't that way a week ago at Creighton. We weren't that way two weeks ago at Missouri State (both losses). We found a lineup that allows us to throw it around a little bit more."
Wadsworth, a senior, made herself a big part of that lineup with one of her best matches as a Shocker. She hit .478 and added a service ace.
"I kept giving her the ball and she kept putting it down," Hooper said.
The middle set is a favorite for Wadsworth. She hits it regularly in practice and hasn't gotten many opportunities in games.
"It's definitely my best hit, by far," she said. "Tonight we were really trying to get that ball because I was getting one-on-one in the middle of the court."