Nonconference preparation pays off for Shockers in Shocker Classic

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Grant Cohen

 

Throughout the week, Wichita State volleyball head coach Chris Lamb and assistant coaches Sean Carter and Donnie Wallace spent a lot of time preparing for WSU’s weekend opponents. The focus was about preparing the Shocker’s for the heavy duty non-conference schedule, with all three opponents stating their case early for an NCAA tournament appearance in December.

Lamb’s staff was constantly working on scouting or team skill work to help WSU prepare for the top teams in the country. Their preparation allowed the Shocker’s to clean things up from Friday’s loss to Cincinnati, sweeping IUPUI and Marquette 3-0 on Saturday to claim the Shocker Classic championship on Saturday.

“It’s like the Daytona 500 to NASCAR. The big (games) for us are at the beginning of the year,” Lamb said. “Not to say that the Valley doesn’t provide some big games, but the non-conference matters to the mid major.”

WSU started Saturday afternoon with a 3-0 victory over IUPUI. Junior outside hitter Abbie Lehman led all with 15 kills off a .565 hitting percentage to add to 11 kills from junior Mikaela Raudsepp on the outside.

“It’s hard not bring it every night,” Raudsepp said. “Being apart of a team that has athletes that are out there competing every single day, it’s a grind. Why wouldn’t I want to be apart of that?”

The Shockers held IUPUI to hitting .096 and came up with 55 digs, allowing less than 15 points in two out of the three sets on their way to face Marquette for a chance to claim their host tournament championship.

Marquette was coming off with high momentum after beating no. 7 Southern California at USC, claiming their first two matches in Wichita. The Shockers shut down the Golden Eagle offense, allowing only nine kills off of .075 hitting in the first set.

Senior outside hitter Jody Larson got the offense cooking for WSU in the first set, getting four of her 10 kills to lead the Shockers to hitting .405 at the start. The Shockers came up with 24 digs on their way to a 25-14 set one victory.

The Golden Eagles jumped out to an early 7-2 lead in the second set before the Shockers went on a 6-0 scoring run to steal the lead thanks to sophomore outside hitter Tabitha Brown. Brown, who came up with a season high of 13 kills in the win over IUPUI, scored three straight points off of three kills on her way to leading the Shockers with 11 game kills.

A Taylor Louis kill gave Marquette a 20-19 lead, but kills from Brown and junior setter Emily Hiebert gave WSU control in set two. The Shockers went into the break with a 2-0 lead in the match, with Lehman ending the set with two consecutive kills off of assists from Hiebert to get by Marquette 25-22 in set two. 

“(Their defense) gave Abbie a little more room to work,” Hiebert said. “It opened me up more because they were worried about us going behind.”

Matching dead even with Marquette, Raudsepp gave the Shockers the lead 12-11 in set three, on her way to earning a spot on the All-Tournament team. Two kills from Hiebert off of the second offensive hit extended the WSU lead 19-15, helping finish off the Golden Eagles 25-20 to sweep the match 3-0.

“I take for granted how much I love Emily Hiebert,” Lamb said. “We got the digs, but she located balls we could hit. She’s doing things no other setters do and as busiest setter in America.”

Hiebert earned her first career most valuable player award on Saturday, claiming top individual honors with 39 assists, eight digs and five kills. Larson was also named to the All-Tournament team, helping the Shockers claim the 2016 Shocker Classic Championship by winning the 3-way tiebreaker by most sets won.  

WSU (3-2) will travel to Fort Collins, Co for the next matches against no.25 Colorado State, no. 3 Texas and Samford beginning on Thursday.