Wichita State Shockers

Abbie Lehman’s move in middle helps balance WSU volleyball offense

Wichita State junior middle blocker Abbie Lehman has become a bigger part of the team’s attack in recent weeks.
Wichita State junior middle blocker Abbie Lehman has become a bigger part of the team’s attack in recent weeks. The Wichita Eagle

Abbie Lehman rarely hit slides during most of her career at Wichita State. Over the past two weeks, that approach grew into half the workload for Wichita State’s junior middle blocker.

That change is all part of the lineup the Shockers switched to with designs of juicing scoring. Lehman’s move was more subtle than the two players who are now in for all six rotations, but does require an adjustment on her part.

“I’ve been hitting a lot more slides on one foot,” Lehman said. “I’ve been working a lot more on hitting center balls, right in the middle of the court, and then running slides.”

The Shockers (15-5, 8-1 Missouri Valley Conference) start the second half of MVC play in first place, one game ahead of Friday opponent Missouri State (16-7, 7-2) and Southern Illinois.

WSU’s offense is more balanced with Mikaela Raudsepp and Tabitha Brown playing six rotations. Lehman’s task is to stay as busy as previously in her new job description, which includes two front-row rotations with setter Emily Hiebert. In the the first two matches with the new lineup, Lehman recorded a season-low eight attempts in each and a season-low three kills against Bradley.

In the next two matches, her attempts rose to 21 and 17, closer to her usual numbers.

“It’s just me figuring out what a good approach to take is,” she said. “In the last week, I’ve started to find better approaches and get more attempts that way.”

Mastering the technique for the slide — moving behind the setter to take the set while in running motion — is also helping.

“It’s not as fast as the normal quick (sets),” she said. “To hit slides hard, you have to get your arm back, which is something I’ve never been good at. I’m really working on getting my arm back and getting my knee up when I go for my approach.”

The Shockers hit .300 or better in the past four games, including a season-high .461 against Southern Illinois.

“It’s given us more balance,” coach Chris Lamb said. “We’ve still got a ways to go. There’s still some hesitation and some discomfort there (for her). She was pretty elite at her old job.”

WSU is No. 32 in the NCAA power rankings (RPI) and plays five of its remaining nine MVC matches at home before heading to Cedar Falls, Iowa for the MVC Tournament. It already owns road wins over second-place MSU and SIU. Those positions please Lamb, who spent the spring planning on playing the 6-2 before an injury in August forced him to change plans. He spent August and most of September reconfiguring his team into the 5-1.

“We’re still shuffling the cards through the first half of the league, still rolling out different lineups and not because of desperation,” he said. “If there’s any numbers inside of what we’ve done that I want to improve at, it would be on the defensive side and getting the offensive attempt figures right.”

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

Missouri State at Wichita State

  • When: 7 p.m. Friday
  • Where: Koch Arena
  • Records: MSU 16-7, 7-2 MVC; WSU 15-5, 8-1
  • Audio: goshockers.com
  • Video: ESPN3.com
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