Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb asked for a moment to peruse the stat sheet from Saturday night’s sweep of Southern Illinois at Koch Arena.
“That can’t be right,” he said, smiling as he broke out the calculator on his cell phone. “That’s just not us, right? That’s a crazy number.”
Lamb’s surprise at Wichita State’s hitting percentage – the Shockers connected on 43 of 89 (48.3 percent) of kill atempts — is understood.
What’s also to be understood is that the Shockers, with a lineup mostly populated almost entirely with underclassmen, are playing their best volleyball at the end of the regular season.
After Saturday’s 25-11, 25-18, 24-19 win in the final home match of the season, WSU is 18-8 overall and 12-4 in Missouri Valley Conference play headed into next weekend’s final two matches at Indiana State and at first-place Illinois State.
“Who really cares about age?” Lamb said. “The other team doesn’t, that’s for sure.”
All WSU cared about from the opening serve of Saturday’s match was domination.
“Mary (Ashton Floyd) came in the huddle before and said, ‘I want to remember the feeling we had against Missouri State,’” WSU setter Emily Hiebert said. “We wanted to go out, get a win and go home with that feeling again.”
Floyd led the Shockers with six kills in the first set, as the Shockers reeled off an 8-0 run that ended with them up 17-5.
WSU never trailed in the second set, although the Salukis got within two at 20-18 before back-to-back kills by Ashlyn Driskill sparked a 5-0 run to close things out.
The Shockers trailed early in the third set before a pair of kills by Abbie Lehman gave WSU some separation with a 13-10 lead. Southern Illinois closed to within 18-17 before WSU finished things out with a 7-2 run.
Lehman led the Shockers with 13 kills. Floyd finished with eight kills, while Hiebert’s final line was 33 assists and four service aces.
“This is kind of how I expect us to be doing right now,” Lehman said. “And there’s still stuff to work on. I know that even when I get a kill, (WSU assistant coach) Matt Hoffman is right there, telling me what I can do to get better.”
Meg Viggars led Southern Illinois (15-14, 9-8) with eight kills. Taylor Pippen, daughter of NBA great Scottie Pippen, added six kills for the Salukis.
“I thought we had some unexpectedly good success at the beginning of the year, especially with freshmen all over the floor,” Lamb said. “But we get into conference, people start to figure some things out about us and we have to change, have to evolve and grow our skill set. I think that’s the sign of a good team. You want to say you’re going to be good at the end of the season, and I think we’re really showing some defensive maturity ... our serving is improving, our passing is improving.”