Wichita State Shockers

Why WSU volleyball is exactly where it needs to be after six matches

Tabitha Brown, left, scores a kill against TCU last season. Brown, a junior, leads WSU with 4.13 kills per set this season.
Tabitha Brown, left, scores a kill against TCU last season. Brown, a junior, leads WSU with 4.13 kills per set this season. LINCOLN JOURNAL STAR

There were plenty of moments last weekend that showed the potential of this Wichita State volleyball team, but just as many that reminded coach Chris Lamb just how inexperienced it is.

While it is true the Shockers remained competitive with Stanford, then the top-ranked team in the country, deep into the first two sets and even took a 26-25 lead in the third, it is also true that WSU failed to finish any of them off with a victory.

“You’re in a 12-round fight and what it comes down to is you need to be able to hold it together,” Lamb said. “Yes, we were 16s with Stanford, 18s with Stanford, but right up there late is a Stanford five-point run and we never recovered. That’s just part of the growing pains.”

It’s a lesson that Wichita State wouldn’t learn without the demanding schedule Lamb has compiled.

It continues this weekend with a trip to Omaha for the Bluejay Invitational, where WSU will play two more likely NCAA Tournament teams. The Shockers play Iowa State (5-2) at 4 p.m. Saturday (live-streamed on Creighton’s website), then against No. 14 Creighton (4-3) at 2 p.m. Sunday (available on Fox Sports Go).

Overall, Lamb is happy with where the Shockers (4-2) are at this point in the season. They received the 31st-most points in the latest American Volleyball Coaches Association poll.

“On paper, we haven’t lost a thing,” Lamb said. “4-2 is exactly where we need to be right here. If you were to say we probably wouldn’t get the Stanford or BYU games, then you need to make sure you get the VCU and (James Madison) ones because they’re both going to be there in the end.”

After a week of practice, WSU hopes to generate more efficient offense this weekend. The Shockers are hitting .199 as a team with their top three options on the outside — Tabitha Brown, Alex Koon and Megan Taflinger — hitting a combined .171 on 63 percent of WSU’s swings this season.

An improvement in blocking would also be welcomed. The Shockers have faced high-powered offenses in every match so far this season, but WSU has 27 blocks in 24 sets this season, while its opponents have combined for 66.

It won’t be easy against two more top-notch opponents, but Lamb would be encouraged to see strides in those areas.

“We focused on understanding where we’re broken and how we’re being taken advantage of,” Lamb said. “First, there comes the realization. Now it’s about making those repairs. Our opponents this weekend are very good and they’re watching tape and they know where to get us. We have to be prepared for that.”