Wichita State Shockers

WSU volleyball’s success depends on hitters exploring open spaces on edges

Wichita State's Abbie Lehman goes for a kill shot against Indiana State's last season.
Wichita State's Abbie Lehman goes for a kill shot against Indiana State's last season. The Wichita Eagle

Wichita State volleyball knows where the blockers will go. They will follow middle blocker Abbie Lehman.

“They’re normally putting four hands up on her,” WSU right-side hitter Jody Larson said. “Which means we normally have two. When we get the chance, we just have to execute.”

WSU (1-1) plays Cincinnati (2-1) on Friday to open the Shocker Volleyball Classic. How effectively its front-row players can use the attention drawn by Lehman to score against solo blocks will largely set the offensive pace.

In its opening tournament, the Shockers didn’t give Lehman much help in a 3-0 loss to Iowa State. More scorers emerged in a 3-2 win over then-No. 18 Creighton.

“We found more balanced scoring,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “When you’ve got an outside hitter who can keep the scoreboard moving … and eventually they started to soften up. Early on, they were doing everything they could to make our lefts beat them.”

Outside hitter Mikaela Raudsepp finished the two matches with 23 kills and a .333 attack percentage to earn a spot on the all-tournament team.

“Mikaela’s trusting that she can over the top, hitting with more range, better vision,” Lamb said.

Larson recorded a team-high 19 kills against Creighton after five in the opener and the Shockers got increased contributions from others such as freshman Alex Koon.

“That first game was a little rough,” Larson said. “It just kind of flowed better. Our passing that first night was rough so relaxing and getting the jitters out, I think, helped.”

Larson, a senior from Maize South, plays on the right, but will use her experience to hit from many spots. It’s a role coaches call the explorer.

“I played in the middle a little bit against Iowa State and Creighton, which is different,” she said. “Where ever they need to make adjustments, they can put me. On hitting routes, I see where the blockers go and make moves.”

Lamb gives her the freedom to make those choices to take advantage of her connection with setter Emily Hiebert. Former Shocker Camri Zwiesler played a similar role and Lamb tried it with Emily Stockman before deciding she was too dominant on the left.

“Emily likes setting Jody and if Jody wants to run somewhere — as long as we don’t get too clogged up — it’s going to make dealing with us interesting,” he said. “Jody’s got a great volleyball I.Q., so she has a feel for where that pass is going to take the setter.”

Paul Suellentrop: 316-269-6760, @paulsuellentrop

Shocker Volleyball Classic

At Koch Arena

Friday

Marquette (2-1) vs. IUPUI (1-2), 4:30 p.m.

Cincinnati (2-1) at Wichita State (1-1), 7 p.m.

Saturday

Cincinnati vs. Marquette, 10 a.m.

IUPUI at Wichita State, 1 p.m.

IUPUI vs. Cincinnati, 5 p.m.

Marquette at Wichita State, 7:30 p.m.

▪  WSU games broadcast on goshockers.com (audio) and ESPN3.com (video).

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