A two-setter system intrigued Wichita State coach Chris Lamb all spring and into the fall before injuries caused him to shelve that approach.
He never, however, discarded the idea.
The Shockers kept practicing the 6-2. Lamb remained convinced it could give his team more firepower. Northern Iowa defends the 5-1 expertly and Lamb likes how the 6-2 worked in the past against the Panthers.
Friday, he rolled the 6-2 back out to uneven results in a 3-0 loss to Northern Iowa at Koch Arena.
“The 6-2 doesn’t change what’s happening on the left and it makes what we’re good at on the middle stay there,” Lamb said. “We believe we’ve got enough with an additional hitter on the right that can come in and do some damage.”
Northern Iowa’s serve-and-pass mastery spoiled those plans. The Shockers out-hit the Panthers in two of the three sets, yet failed to win other areas.
The 26-24, 25-18, 27-25 loss knocked the Shockers (15-7, 8-3) out of first place in the Missouri Valley Conference and handed them a second straight loss at home. Northern Iowa (18-7, 9-3) swept the season series and moved percentage points ahead of the Shockers and behind first-place Missouri State, where it plays on Saturday.
WSU will try to regroup against Drake and extend its 32-match win streak over the Bulldogs on Saturday. Its No. 1 goal is reducing its attack errors, which are climbing in the second half of the MVC season.
“We really had a good talk in the locker room and kind of got our head in the right spot about how we’re going to go about practice,” WSU right-side Jody Larson said. “We put ourselves at a loss because of the errors we make. We’re doing it to ourselves a lot.”
Lamb said WSU ended the first half of MVC play at nine-percent attack errors, a strong number. That number doubled after the next two matches. The Shockers recorded 20 on Friday after a season-high 27 in last week’s loss to Missouri State.
“Scoring is just not there on the pins,” Lamb said. “We hit a wall. I don’t have an answer for that.”
WSU hit .270 in the third set and a season-low .148 for the match. Larson led the Shockers with 10 kills, hitting .364, and Tabitha Brown added eight.
Amie Held led the Panthers with 14 kills and three aces. UNI won the serving game with five aces and four errors to WSU’s one ace and seven errors.
The Shockers, with redshirt freshman Jordan Roberts sharing setting duties with junior Emily Hiebert, lost the first two sets. They returned to the 5-1, with Hiebert, for the third set. Roberts had played in three matches this season, most recently against Evansville on Sept. 28.
We’ve gotten here doing stuff, changing things on the fly,” Lamb said. “Last year, we were down 2-0 against these guys in the semifinals of the (MVC) tournament and went to the 6-2 and rolled.”
UNI coach Bobbi Petersen wasn’t surprised that Lamb tried something new. The 6-2 did surprise her.
“I’ll have to give him a hard time for that,” she said. “They’re tough, because they have so many options. You come in with a gameplan and they run the 6-2.”
Too often, and at inopportune moments, WSU played with Hiebert and middle Abbie Lehman on the bench. The Panthers took advantage of the rotation .
“Good for us,” Petersen said. “We talked about that serving-wise, we’re pretty aggressive at the serving line, but when those two kids are out we want to keep the serve in.”
The Shockers led the third set 20-13 before Held sparked the Panthers. She recorded three kills to help UNI cut the lead to 21-19. Her ace tied it 23-all.
“She really got us back into it,” Petersen said. “She was firing her arm, she was digging balls.”
A kill by Bri Weber gave the Panthers a 24-23 lead, but Weber’s attack error gave WSU a chance. Weber scored again. Katy Dudzinski responded for WSU. The Panthers won it on a slide by Piper Thomas and Brown’s attack error.
Drake at Wichita State
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Koch Arena