Wichita State Shockers

Wichita State coach sees Gabi Mostrom respond with confidence

Wichita State's Dani Mostrom, trying to save a ball last weekend against Drake, has told sister Gabi some hard truths in an effort to increase her confidence and get her back in the lineup.
Wichita State's Dani Mostrom, trying to save a ball last weekend against Drake, has told sister Gabi some hard truths in an effort to increase her confidence and get her back in the lineup. Correspondent

Dani Mostrom is the older sister who won’t sugarcoat tough situations for her sister.

“If I’m down, she’ll be matter-of-fact about it,” Gabi Mostrom said. “She understands that if I’m not performing well, I need to pick it up.”

All the Wichita State defensive specialists heard that message over the past month. Gabi Mostrom heard and understood.

Coach Chris Lamb, after a 3-1 loss at Northern Iowa, changed his lineup and limited his use of “littles” in the rotation to express his disappointment with their hustle and confidence. Gabi Mostrom, a junior, sat out the next four matches.

Dani Mostrom, WSU’s senior libero, sees speaking the truth as an investment in her sister and in the program.

“Nobody wants to be told things that aren’t true,” she said. “I want her to succeed, especially when I’m gone. I want the team to do as well as when I’m here. My job as a leader is to continue to push them and tell them what they could work on and how they can change their mentality to be a better competitor.”

The Shockers (16-7, 9-3 Missouri Valley Conference) play at Bradley (7-17, 2-11) on Friday and at Loyola (12-14, 7-6) on Saturday. They trail first-place Missouri State by a game in the MVC standings and are one game ahead of three teams in the loss column.

Gabi Mostrom is back in the rotation and coming off several strong outings, including a season-high 12 digs in Saturday’s win over Drake.

“We definitely have noticed more of a defensive impact from her,” Lamb said. “She’s maybe our best passer over the best several matches.”

The change, everyone agrees, isn’t from technical adjustments that she made with her hands or footwork. It’s more about attitude and effort.

“A few weeks ago, when basically every (little) was demoted, I think there’s been a response to that,” Lamb said. “I hate going down the path of psychology – it’s just not how I’m wired. But does it exist? Absolutely.”

Gabi Mostrom agreed.

“It definitely pushed me,” she said.

Playing the back row is a lot about attitude and effort, diving for balls, refusing to look cowed against hard-hit balls, sticking out an arm to frustrate an attacker. Gabi Mostrom looks more like that kind of feisty back-row player in recent matches and her sister said she read it on her face.

“I want her to have confidence,” Dani Mostrom said. “When she moves to get digs, it was more fluid. She looked like she was out there to play, instead of ‘What am I doing?’”

The Shockers lost home matches to Missouri State and Northern Iowa to fall out of first place in the MVC. After the UNI loss, the team gathered to discuss its issues. Assistant coach Sean Carter spoke of playing with confidence, playing with the understanding that coaches recruit and insert players into lineups for a reason. Those words hit home for Gabi Mostrom.

“I had a different mindset when I went out there for the Drake game,” Gabi Mostrom said. “Just don’t even have the thought in your mind that ‘I can’t get that ball.’ In the past, I was more nervous, like I couldn’t make a mistake, and then I would end up making more mistakes.”

Worth noting — Friday’s match is on ESPN3.com. Audio of both matches is available on goshockers.com.… WSU is No. 35 in the NCAA power ranking, down three spots from the previous week. The Shockers are 3-6 against the top 50.

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

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