WICHITA — It was time for two of Newton’s native daughters to say goodbye to Koch Arena Friday afternoon as Abbie Lehman and Emily Hiebert helped lead the Wichita State Shocker volleyball team to a sweep of Memphis on Senior Day and a sweep of American Athletic Conference play.
Wichita State downed the Tigers 25-17, 25-14, 25-11 to finish 27-3, 20-0 in the Shockers’ first year in the AAC.
“It was awesome today,” Lehman said. “It was a great feeling today. There was no way to explain it. Being out here for the final time.”
“I can’t believe it’s over,” Hiebert said. “It might not be. We still have a chance to get another home match. It was a great day, having this crowd and everybody here.”
Hiebert and Lehman have been two of the main drivers for the Shockers the last four years. Hiebert has been the starting setter during that time and holds the all-time career assist record at WSU. Lehman is the career leader in blocks and is fifth all-time in total kills.
Both hold multiple all-conference honors, as well as player of the week honors. Both hold multiple academic honors.
“I feel like I got two top draft picks in the same draft,” WSU coach Chris Lamb said. “They are complete, productive players. They have done as much at their positions as anyone has ever done here. They have been amazing people as well the whole way.”
Hiebert knew early that she wanted to be a Shocker.
“In my eight grade and freshman year, I was coming to camp here and they knew I was interested,” Hiebert said. “I’m a big homebody, and this was close to home. I also loved the coaches and the other players. It’s been an amazing thing being here.”
“Emily was always around,” Lamb said. “She came to camps and did all the kids stuff. She was a great hitter, but I knew she would be a great setter.”
Lehman showed up on Lamb’s radar a little bit later. It wasn’t until her senior year that it became a certainty that she would become a Shocker.
“It was pretty late coming into it,” Lehman said. “I knew this is where I wanted to play. Having Emily come here was a big part of it. It was close to home. There were so many memories here, it’s hard to pick one.”
“With Abbie, I didn’t see the volleyball talent until the summer of her senior year,” Lamb said. “That’s when you started to see her get off the floor quick, change directions quick. I was watching her speed up her arm. It took me a lot longer with Abbie than it did with Emily. But once she got here, she never looked back.”
Both players redshirted as freshmen, as they came in behind some upperclassmen.
Lehman already has her bachelor’s degree and will finish her master’s degree next fall. She said she may go overseas to try and play professionally.
Hiebert graduates in the spring with a degree in education. She still has some student teaching assignments to complete. She intends to teach either physical education or special education.
“I though about coaching volleyball,” she said. “Either club or high school.”
While the players and coach said the change in conference was hard to judge, the new conference brought about more interesting road trips that included New Orleans, Miami, Tamps, Dallas, Memphis and Philadelphia.
“It’s hard to judge the two conference because we didn’t play all of the teams at the same time, but we’re really proud of what we accomplished,” Lehman said.
“We got to go to a lot of different places, that’s for sure,” Hiebert said. “We got to go to Florida instead of Illinois. It was a lot of fun. It was playing somebody new all the time. That was a great experience.”
“I like things on both sides,” Lamb said. “The AAC is athletic. The road swings are going to require a different approach. I’m so proud of the Valley. It’s the biggest bang for the buck in volleyball as far as I’m concerned. It’s produced great volleyball programs. The volleyball is pretty even.”
The Shockers will find out their NCAA destination Sunday. The last two years, Wichita State has been sent to Lincoln, Neb., falling to Nebraska in the round of 32 and losing to TCU in the first round last year. Lehman and Hiebert also went to Lawrence in 2013, losing to Kansas in three sets.
“We want to play well and do the best we can,” Lehman said. “We want to get as far as we can. We’re all going to have to play to our potential. We are all going to have to play well.”
“We’ll be ready, no matter what,” Hiebert said.
“I’m excited about it,” Lamb said. “I don’t complain about it. Those guys have a tough job. We’ll take what we get and try to get the most out of it. We have a higher RPI than some programs. Other programs have bigger wins. The committee is going to have to balance some of that.”
Lamb has found a lot of success with area players. He currently has nine Kansas players on his roster, including Hiebert and Lehman. Seven are within about 30 miles of campus.
“This isn’t the most saturated volleyball area,” Lamb said. “It’s a good one. There have been some other good players in this area that have gone elsewhere — Kansas, K-State, Oklahoma and others. I just hope to make this program as attractive as I can.”
Tied 9-9 in the first set, Wichita State made a 6-1 run against Memphis and traded points until winning the set.
Down 4-2 in the second set, Wichita State rallied to a 20-10 lead and held on from there.
Tied 5-5 in the third set, the Shockers allowed just six more points.
Lehman led the team in kills with 11, followed by Mikaela Raudsepp with nine and Tabitha Brown with seven. Hiebert had 37 assists. Giorgia Civita had 18 digs, followed by Gabi Mostrom with 13 and Hanna Shelton with 11. Hiebert had six digs. Lehman downed four blocks, followed by Brooke Smith with three. Hiebert downed two blocks.
Hannah Flowers led Memphis with eight kills. Faith Myers set 13 assists, followed by Regan Comperry with 12, Kate Hoerdeman had 11 digs. Daija Lowe downed three blocks.
Wednesday in Memphis, Wichita State won 25-18, 25-10, 25-15. Lehman had 16 kills, followed by Raudsepp with 14. Lehman downed five blocks, followed by Hiebert and Emma Wright with three each. Hiebert set 39 assists. Gabi Mostrom and Giorgia Civita each had 12 digs, followed by Hiebert with nine.
Memphis ends its season 10-22, 3-17 in conference play.