Wichita State coach Chris Lamb won match No. 300 on Saturday and afterward walked out the Koch Arena tunnel to talk with several of his former players. The scene made for a perfect representation of the 14 seasons spent building a powerful program.
“Maybe 300 means I’m getting old,” he said. “When I have these conversations, I just think about the players, and teams and road trips and out on the road recruiting and all the little towns. I’m fortunate to have this kind of success.”
The past looks great in the past. The future looks just as appealing.
The Shockers routed over-matched Evansville 3-0 (25-16, 25-11, 25-18) to win their fourth straight match and stay unbeaten in the Missouri Valley Conference. On Friday, WSU (15-3, 5-0 MVC) plays at Illinois State, which is also 5-0 in the MVC.
The Shockers go on the road with a complete victory, so complete it didn’t matter that their middles took a bit of a backseat on Saturday. WSU’s back-row defenders and its outside hitters, largely an inexperienced group of players, looked like veterans.
WSU’s defense and passing controlled the match, holding Evansville (6-11, 1-5) to negative-080 attack percentage, second-lowest this season for an opponent. Evansville’s Ashley Ring, who entered the match averaging 3.73 kills a set, finished with four and committed 14 errors.
“We’re getting older,” Lamb said who is 300-125 at WSU. “We’re getting better with our hands. We’re trusting people behind us to make plays.”
Defensive specialist Jordan Hinkle contributed a team-high 13 digs. Libero Dani Mostrom added nine and the Shockers finished with nine blocks to Evansville’s four.
“Lambo really stresses that we need more digs, and we really take that seriously when he told us that we need to get better and get rangier,” Hinkle said.
Outside hitter Katie Reilly had nine kills and an attack percentage of .318, her best in MVC play.
“As we go on the left, so go the Shockers this year,” Lamb said. “As that gets better we get better.”
Reilly committed two attack errors, also her fewest in conference matches. On Saturday, she backed off on several occasions and took a conservative swing instead of a riskier approach. Part of learning on the left is knowing when to play it safe.
“I’ve really been working on not making errors,” Reilly said. “I just tried to keep the ball in play. When you have an opportunity to get a kill, score. But when you don’t, just keep it play, because we’re good enough to win the rally.”
Middle Ashley Andrade led WSU with 11 kills, although she made some uncharacteristic errors and finished with four. Elizabeth Field had three kills, her fewest in MVC play, on 12 swings.
The Shockers easily won the first set despite hitting .154 with seven attack errors. Setter Chelsey Feekin recorded four kills on five swings and Andrade added three. WSU held the Aces to a negative-024 attack percentage.
WSU took a 6-1 lead to force an Evansville timeout. The Aces cut the score to 6-4 before the Shockers pulled away again, forcing another timeout with a 14-8 lead. Consecutive kills by Ashlyn Driskill gave WSU a 20-13 lead and an attack error by the Aces made it 21-13. Feekin and Reilly closed out the set with kills.
The Aces took advantage of WSU errors to build a 5-1 lead in the second set. But the Shockers ran off nine straight points to go up 10-5 and Evansville didn’t get closer than four the rest of the way. The Shockers hit .385 with their outside hitters contributing more. Reilly added three kills on six swings and Driskill had two kills without an error.
In the third set, Reilly’s three kills keyed a 7-3 run that provided an 18-11 lead. WSU defeated the Aces for the 23rd time in 24 meetings by holding them to six kills and forcing 11 errors in the final set.