Give coach Chris Lamb time to think, crunch numbers and draw on his whiteboard, and interesting strategies will result.
How successful those creations are will be determined Friday in the NCAA volleyball tournament. Wichita State plays Oklahoma and Lamb must reconfigure his team without senior middle blocker Sarah McGee.
"More time is always helpful when you have to fill a new spot or get a new lineup in," setter Mary Elizabeth Hooper said. "Time is your best friend, but there can never be enough time."
No, the Shockers (21-7) aren't going to replace McGee's scoring, blocking or experience.
She is an All-Missouri Valley Conference pick and the conference's Defensive Player of the Year. A torn medial collateral ligament in her right knee ended her season on Nov 19. Lamb kept the extent of the injury under wraps last week in case the NCAA selection committee wanted to penalize WSU's bid to host. The Shockers now have a second week of practice — and two matches — to absorb the loss and repair.
"We're trying to play differently than we did last week (in the MVC Tournament)," Lamb said. "We just didn't feel very productive."
McGee's injury isn't the only problem in Lamb's mind. He's got other players — Hooper, Amanda Backes and Emily Adney, chiefly — who aren't 100 percent. That means players who didn't play large roles in October and November may be prominent this weekend.
"Several bodies are going to find their way into the action," Lamb said. "We've been forced into a new reality."
Freshman middle Ashley Andrade played all four sets in the MVC Tournament loss to Creighton. Freshman outside hitter Sam Sanders played in three. Outside hitters Lindsey Eckenrode and Alysa Heath didn't play. They are in Lamb's plans for Friday.
"People are going to go in there, and if they're playing confident, they're going to stay in," Lamb said. "If they look nervous, someone else is going to go in."
Lamb said McGee totaled an attack percentage of .408 in the second half of conference play with three kills a game. Without her, WSU hit. 193 against Creighton and only outside hitter Camri Zwiesler recorded double figures in kills.
"If we advance, it's because we were able to find scoring," Lamb said.