Keep it simple.
Sounds easy enough, but the concept had been a little trickier to stay with for the Wichita State volleyball team this season.
But when Wichita State keeps it simple, coach Chris Lamb included, it can roll as it did Saturday night when it swept Northern Iowa 25-15, 25-16, 25-20 at Koch Arena to improve to 12-2 in the Missouri Valley Conference and maintain its one-game lead over Southern Illinois.
“I know my players will make me repeat this to them a million times, but we didn’t try to do too much,” Lamb said. “I can get carried away with all the little things I want to pull off, but the thing is a lot of people have to be able to stick with it. We just kept this one very, very simple.”
Wichita State (21-7) simplified its rotation back to a 5-1 scheme, which seemed to unlock the offense as it finished hitting .376 against what Lamb called not just the Valley’s best defense but a “dominant force.”
It didn’t matter who Emily Hiebert (35 assists) was setting to, it seemed like WSU’s array of hitters delivered.
Abbie Lehman converted 11 kills in 13 tries and Katie Reilly had nine kills in 14 tries, but it was Mikaela Raudsepp, who finished with a match-high 15 kills, who benefited the most from the change in system.
“Any coach is going to be googly-eyed happy when your outside hitters are scoring at a rate like that,” Lamb said. “I made the comment when we switched that Mikaela is going to hit better. It’s going to speed her up and she works hard on keeping the faster ones high and it’s hard to defend.”
The efficiency of the performance buried UNI (15-13, 9-6 MVC) in the first two sets, a quick start that Lamb was wondering if his team was capable of producing. A lot of that had to do with WSU out-digging UNI 50-35, something that hasn’t happen in recent seasons against UNI.
After intermission, the Panthers were able to challenge in the third set, as WSU clung to a 20-19 lead late. But UNI never generated anything close to an attack as it hit .107 for the match and watched as WSU rattled off five points for the victory.
“You have nights where you just can’t hit the court and then other nights where it’s like, ‘Wow, it’s going my way,’ ” Raudsepp said. “It was one of those nights for me.”
But this victory might signal a shift in more than just Raudsepp’s confidence, as Lamb hinted that the team might be sticking with the 5-1 system if it can continue to duplicate performances like the one Saturday evening.
For this night, at least, everything felt so...simple.
“I think keeping it simple means having confidence in every single player on the court,” Raudsepp said. “If (Hiebert) is confident in every single person to put it away, then how can it be more simple than that?”