Fall 2006

Net Aggression

WSU volleyball players
Coach Chris Lamb led Wichita State (11-2, 3-0) to a sweep of Northern
Iowa (9-6,1-1) on Sept. 22 in front of a school record crowd of 3,326.
The old record was 3,124, set last season against UNI.

Wichita State's volleyball resurgence has been fueled by outstanding hitters — high-flying, high-profile players capable of hitting around, over and even through blocks.

Recall Sara Younes, an undersized but formidable California girl who was honored as the Missouri Valley Conference's player of the year in 2004. Then came Elizabeth Meyers, a relentless attacker who hit .429 in 2005 — a conference record.

The current standout is Sara Lungren, a 6-foot-4 farm girl who appears poised to be WSU’s next star on the volleyball court.

The honors and accolades those Shockers have received is well deserved, to be sure.

But coach Chris Lamb, the man responsible for rebuilding the program, thinks one group of players has been largely under-appreciated: WSU’s setters. “Our hitters have put up such offensive numbers, that I feel like our setters kind of get lost in all those stats,” Lamb says. That appears to be changing this season.                                   

Because of a major shift in the team’s offensive system, junior Abby Harsh (who wears No. 6) is taking on more responsibility than  any other setter during the Lamb era.

During the previous six seasons of the coach’s tenure, the Shockers used a 6-2 offense, which calls for two setters who rotate in and out. A year ago, Harsh played only the back row while sharing duties with now-graduated Andee Hartig ’05/06.

WSU volleyball players

This year, WSU switched to a 5-1, making Harsh the full-time setter.

It’s a much heavier burden, and how Harsh fulfills the new role could go a long way toward determining WSU’s success this season.
Experience not necessarily required

Like many of WSU’s players, Harsh was a star at the high school level, but not at the position you might expect. A leaper and an outstanding athlete, she was a dominating hitter, earning all-league and all-state honors at Newton, Kan., High School.

However, Harsh and her club coach realized that, at 5-10, she likely didn’t have the height to be a hitter at the Division I level. So she started “dabbling,” as Lamb puts it, at the  setter position.

The adjustment wasn’t easy. For starters, it’s a complicated position;  setters are expected to be, as the cliché goes, coaches on the floor. Further, hitters usually get the glory, while what setters do often goes unnoticed.

“Yeah, that was a little frustrating at first,” Harsh says in WSU’s practice gym after a recent practice. “People notice the result, and the hitter is the last person to touch the ball. But you get used to it and realize how important setters are. And having ‘Lambo’ as coach helps.”

WSU volleyball players
In the WSU vs. UNI game, Sara Lungren led the
Shockers with 12 kills and 12 digs, while Stephanie
Tokarz added 11 kills and four blocks. Lindsey
Eckenrode contributed 10 kills, and Melissa Granville
added 12 digs and four service aces.

That’s because Lamb is a former  setter himself.

He clearly takes pride in the fact that WSU is known for turning former hitters into skilled setters.

Hartig was a hitter before arriving on campus, Harsh has made the change, and redshirt freshman Kayla Stout is following the same path.

Despite the challenges, Harsh adjusted so well that she started as a freshman. “I just knew that if she wanted to do the setting thing she could make us better right away,” Lamb says.

Indeed, Harsh played in 31 matches in her first season, earning a spot on the all-conference freshman team. She was second on WSU’s team, to Hartig, in assists (582).

As a sophomore, that assists total increased to 671 (still second to Hartig), and she also upped her numbers in kills (12 to 41), aces (15 to 30) and digs (137 to 196).

Lamb credits Harsh’s no-nonsense attitude for the improvement. “Abby is happy being behind the scenes,” Lamb says. “She doesn’t beg for attention. Abby just wants to go   to work. I’m very happy she’s our setter.”

‘It’s been interesting’

Harsh’s work ethic — her desire to improve — was badly needed this season, given the shift in the team’s offense. Playing exclusively on the back row was simple compared to the job description she now has.

“There are a lot of extra things you train for,” Harsh says. “You have to block. When you’re in the front row, you’re the third attacker, so you have to be able to dump. It’s a lot to pick up.”

WSU volleyball players
"It's been interesting," says No. 6 Abby
Harsh about her role change to setter, a
position similar to that of quarterback in
football or point guard in basketball.
"There are a lot of extra things you train 

In addition, a setter is similar to the quarterback on a football team or a point guard on a basketball team. Strategy, changes in the game plan, small adjustments — all are the  responsibility of the setter.

“Last year, with the 6-2, I’d go out after three rotations and sort of get a scouting report from Lambo and go back in. This year, I’m in the entire time, so I have to make transitions   and stuff while I’m on the court. It’s been interesting.”

And apparently successful.

As of late September, the young Shocks (there are no seniors on the team) were 12-3 overall and leading the The Valley in hitting percentage. Lungren was at 4.40 kills per game, tops in the conference.

She says Harsh’s transition has gone “very well.”

“I didn’t know how it would be at first because last year she was just back row and she didn’t have to worry about being aggressive at the net,” Lungren says. “This year, she’s having to block and attack also. She picked those up very well. She works hard every day on her dumping.

“She’s always got a positive  attitude, and  she’s just a great teammate. And because she works so hard, she’s become very accurate with her sets.”

Through those first 15 matches, Harsh was averaging 12.25 assists per game, second in the conference. Her stats are rock solid — and Lamb likes her toughness.

Harsh has battled various injuries — a sore back, a pulled groin, a pulled quad — but she has played through the pain.

“She’s gone through some bumps and bruises, and, to be honest, we were really concerned about her durability, especially in the 5-1 offense,” Lamb says. “But the proof is in the pudding. There is room for improvement and I’m expecting more — that’s my job — but I’m very happy about how she’s developed as a setter.”


1. Michele Hallagin, 1996-99, 4,476
2. Kori Rosenkranz, 1992-95, 4,313
3. Yu-Chyi Yang, 1988-91, 3,421
4. Andee Hartig, 2002-05, 3,114
5. Kari James, 1985-88, 2,855
6. Stephanie Whitcomb, 2000-03, 2,084
7. Abby Harsh, 2004-present, 2,055
8. Caitlyn Fiandt, 1997-00, 1,763
9. Janet Harty, 1988-89, 838
10. Jennifer Miller, 1983-84, 790


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