WICHITA, Kan. (WSU) - Wichita State's landmark volleyball season ended with a 3-1 loss to Missouri on Saturday at Koch Arena in the second round of the NCAA Tournament.
Missouri upset No. 16 Wichita State to advance to the NCAA Sweet 16 for a second consecutive season. The defeat ended Wichita State's 21-match win streak and a season highlighted by hosting NCAA play for the first time and an American Athletic Conference title.
"I wasn't going to let any one match define anything this year, and that includes the last one," Wichita State coach Chris Lamb said. "We had an historic season. The consistency that this team displayed is unlike anything I've ever been a part of."
The Tigers (22-11) will advance to next weekend's regional round at No. 1 seed Penn State.
"Every one of these games could have gone either way," Missouri coach Wayne Kreklow said. "It was a battle, one of those epic things that could have gone either way."
Missouri took the first two sets, pulling away late in both. The Tigers dug balls that most Wichita State opponents didn't handle over the past two months. Their scoring balance across the front-line also gave the Shockers problems. Four Tigers finished with double figures in kills and when the Shockers set their defense on one, others stepped up to score.
"We ran into a team that was able to make that look different," Lamb said. "They've seen that ball-speed before; they've seen what we have. Adjustments were working. We just fell a little bit short."
After the break, Wichita State moved Alex Koon to the opposite spot and inserted freshman Brooke Smith at middle for her blocking skills. The changes reeled in Missouri's attack percentage in the final two sets and gave the Shockers a chance to rally.
"Alex was just amazing," Hiebert said. "Her personality kind of helped us push through. Brooke, coming out, probably scared as heck with all those awesome fans out there, but she came out and killed it."
The defeat ended the career of six Wichita State seniors. The post-game scene included many hugs and tears, as well as smiles and laughs, as they considered the end of their college careers.
"I can't even explain how much these girls mean to me," Wichita State senior outside hitter Mikaela Raudsepp said. "I leave here with best friends."
The Shockers (29-4) hit .215 in the match, led by Koon's 15 kills. Middle Abbie Lehman added 13 kills. Hiebert had 39 assists and nine digs.
Sydney Deeken led Missouri with 15 kills and Dariana Hollingsworth added 14. Setter Courtney Eckenrode, sister of former Shocker Lindsey Eckenrode, handed out 53 assists and recorded 12 digs.
The Tigers hit .246 for the match.
Kira Larson finished with 13 kills, 10 in the first two sets. The Shockers focused their blocking on her in the final two sets.
"We knew who was after by the first two sets and we were a little more aware of the speed of the ball being set, and that always helps as you get into a match," Lehman said.
Wichita State led much of the fourth set, building leads of 8-4, 15-12 and 22-20. A service error by Lehman and an ace by Larson tied it 22-all. The Shockers had another chance to stay alive, up 24-23. Deeken responded with two kills to give Missouri at 25-24 lead. After a Shocker timeout, Deeken scored again to end the match.
In the first set, Missouri hit .304 and held the Shockers to .158. Wichita State led 22-21 before Missouri finished the set on a 4-1 run.
In the second set, the Tigers again controlled the late stages. Alyssa Munlyn broke a 20-all tie with a kill to start Missouri on a 5-2 run. Hollingsworth recorded six kills in the set.
The Tigers limited Lehman, who had five kills in the first set, to one in the second.
After the break, Koon's poise and accuracy gave the Shockers a spark on offense. She consistently found openings and scored off blocks. Ten of her 15 kills came in the final two sets.
Wichita State took control midway through the third set with a 5-0 run that gave it a 17-11 lead. The Tigers closed to within 22-20 before the Shockers finished the match on a 3-1 run.
Koon helped the Shocker attack with four kills, finding room on cross-court shots. Wichita State's blocking adjustments limited Larson to 2 two kills on nine swings in the set.
Saturday's match drew 7,258 fans to set a school record for the second night.