For the past two weeks, Tabitha Brown didn’t like her swing and neither did Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb.
On Saturday, off came the tape on her thumb and Brown’s swing came to life. She could snap her wrist. She could twist her hand. She could hit with power and feel.
“Today, I decided we’re just doing to ditch all that and just go hard,” Brown said.
On Friday, Lamb opened his post-game remarks by lamenting Tabitha Brown’s scoring struggles. On Saturday afternoon, Brown did almost everything right in a sweep (25-14, 25-20, 25-9) of IUPUI in the Shocker Volleyball Classic at Koch Arena. She finished with 13 kills and three aces, hitting .417.
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Lamb could tell in warmups that Brown’s swing improved without the tape holding her thumb in place. She started wearing it last month as a protective measure.
“I’ve never seen her not perform well without her hand taped,” he said. “And I’ve never seen her perform as well as she’s could with her hand taped. I wondered if that wasn’t something.”
Lamb wondered correctly.
“I watch arm swings every day,” he said. “I stare at them. I see things. It looked different.”
Brown, a transfer from Alabama, entered the game with 13 kills and a .049 attack percentage in three previous matches. While she joined the team in January and played during the spring, finding her comfort zone in Lamb’s system is an ongoing work.
“As confusing as our system is, I honestly love it,” she said. “It makes us so unpredictable and it’s always leaving an open spot for us to hit and I can always see it, too, because I have my libero behind me calling shots for me.”
Abbie Lehman led WSU (2-2) with a season-high 15 kills. Mikaela Raudsepp added 11 for WSU, which hit .423 against little opposition from IUPUI (2-4). Setter Emily Hiebert totaled six kills, 36 assists and 10 digs. Libero Dani Mostrom had 15 digs.
Kori Waelbroeck led the Jaguars wtih eight kills.
The Shockers, after struggling to score on Friday in a 3-1 loss to a bigger and stronger Cincinnati team, enjoyed height and power edges against IUPUI.
The Shockers dominated the final set, racing to leads of 6-1, 10-1 and 13-3.
Brown ended an IUPUI rally in the second set after the gap closed to one point. She scored after a WSU timeout to make it 20-18 and added two more kills in a 5-2 finish.
In the first set, she recorded five kills on eight swings. The Shockers grabbed a 6-1 lead and never allowed the Jags closer than three points. Brown’s kill and ace expanded the lead to 18-10.
Shocker Volleyball Classic
At Koch Arena
Marquette 3, IUPUI 0
Cincinnati 3, Wichita State 1
Marquette 3, Cincinnati 1
Wichita State 3, IUPUI 0
IUPUI (1-4) vs. Cincinnati (3-2), 5 p.m.
Marquette (4-1) at Wichita State (2-2), 7:30 p.m.