Even in the best of circumstances, Evansville puts up little resistance against Wichita State’s volleyball team. On Friday, difficult circumstances turned the match into little more than a scrimmage for the Shockers.
WSU swept Evansville (25-10, 25-13, 25-10) and recorded a .553 attack percentage, second-highest in program history. The Aces, with five players out with injuries, played with one substitute and coach Manolo Concepcion called timeouts for rest as much as strategy. Freshman setter Genesis Miranda played outside hitter until Friday’s match. Senior Ashley Ring, Evansville’s best scorer, tried to help.
“We just had to really dial it in and stayed focused,” WSU senior MaryAshton Floyd said. “We had to be really careful to not get complacent and play down to a team.”
The Shockers (17-8, 11-4 Missouri Valley Conference) stayed sharp despite the lack of a challenge and defeated the Aces for the 26th time in 27 meetings.. They recorded 46 kills to 23 by the Aces (8-20, 4-12) and had 39 digs to Evansville’s 20. The Aces led by one point in Set 2 and one in Set 3. With inexperienced setters, Evansville’s offense unfolded methodically and predictably.
“We were preparing for hitters as we know them,” Lamb said. “The offense can’t get faster. It will probably get slower.”
WSU freshman middle Abbie Lehman had 16 kills and hit .727, which would be a career-high for most. Lehman, however, hit 1.000 earlier in the season, so Friday’s performance was just another in a line of strong matches. Lehman registered 12 or more kills for the fifth straight match.
Lamb found significance in the fact that former Shocker middle Ashley Andrade, visiting for alumni events, watched the match. Andrade was named co-MVC Player of the Year last season and Lehman is following in her path for production from the middle.
Many teams run their offense through the outside hitters, which can be an easier route. Relying on the middles requires more timing and chemistry.
“You just don’t have (middles) doing what Abbie is doing, leading the team in attempts, leading teams in point-scoring,” Lamb said. “We’ve obviously learned a different style of volleyball around here. Even though Abbie and Ashley are obviously very, very different, there’s a bit of a template around here.”
Lehman, since recording three kills against Illinois State on Sept. 19, has had eight or more in every match since.
“The connection keeps improving, and it’s working on hitting not just hitting pushes, but ups and all,” Lehman said.
Floyd added 10 kills, eight digs and hit .556, swinging without an error as Lehman did. Ashlyn Driskill added nine kills. Setter Emily Hiebert handed out 39 assists. WSU’s attack percentage of .553 ranks below a 2003 effort of .583 against Drake.
Ring led Evansville with six kills.
Southern Illinois at WSU volleyball
When: 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Koch Arena
Records: SIU 14-13, 8-7 MVC; WSU 17-8, 11-4