Josie Deckinger (JR/Wichita, Kan.) has a direct yet simple explanation for Kansas Wesleyan’s dominance of Southwestern in the final three sets after a stunning loss in the first.
“It lit a fire under our butt and we just started playing our game after that,” said Deckinger, the Coyotes’ setter.
Wesleyan appeared to be a good shape in the opening set leading 22-16 but the Moundbuilders scored five answered points then ended it by tallying the last four points.
The loss only awakened the proverbial sleeping giant, though. The Coyotes cruised in the next three sets 25-12, 25-13, 25-17 for a 3-1 Kansas Conference victory Friday night inside Mabee Arena.
It was their 11th consecutive victory and raised their record to 18-4 overall, 4-0 in the KCAC.
“We stuck to our game plan – not hitting to the libero and getting the shots we needed,” said Deckinger who had 37 assists, seven digs and four kills in the game. “We knew this was a team coming in that was really energetic and always motivated to get every ball so we knew we had to bring the energy and not let them have anything.”
KWU had a .233 hitting percentage for the match while Southwestern (4-10, 0-3 KCAC) and hit just .036.
Rylee Serpan (FR/Spring Hill, Kan.), the Coyotes’ irrepressible outside hitter, had 14 kills on a .257 percentage while Elizabeth Hardacre (SR/Kensington, Kan.) had 11 kills and Maddy Beckett (SR/Halstead, Kan.) and Morgan Bryand (SR/Wichita, Kan.) 10 apiece.
Serpan impressed her coach Jessica Biegert once again with her powerful left arm but Biegert was pleased with the entire offense.
“She’s a standout every game and so consistent,” she said of Serpan. “We relied on her heavily tonight, her best shot was the cross away from the libero. We could set her and know we were going to get a kill.
“We were so balanced and that’s our pride and joy this year. Morgan had a great game and Beckett stepped up when we needed her to. Josie does a great job of running the offense, she’s our quarterback.”
Deckinger said having a talented front row makes her task and existence enjoyable.
“Very nice as a setter to know you can go to any of them and score anytime,” she said. “And also good on defense because you know that they’ll get a block or they’ll create a funnel to you.”
Defensively KWU had 14 team blocks, Hardacre notching seven block assists and Serpan and Alexis Utz (JR/Kansas City, Mo.) five each. Libero Kelcey Hund (JR/Leavenworth, Kan.) had 28 digs and Beckett 21.
“We had a great blocking game which was good to see,” Biegert said. “And then the back row was there when they weren’t.”
Biegert said her team suffered a costly letdown in the first set.
“I think maybe we just got too comfortable and then just thought they were going to give it to us because that’s what happened last time we played them,” she said.
Biegert said she reminded her team of the pregame strategy before the start of the second set.
“Our game plan was to not get out-inspired because they are an energy team,” she said. “That happened with the way we played. We’ve got to play high energy every game.”
Leading 6-5 in the second set KWU scored 16 of the next 21 points for a 22-10 lead then scored the final three.
Up 9-7 in the third set the Coyotes went on an 8-2 run and closed with an 8-1 surge.
The fourth set was tied at 12 before Wesleyan scored nine unanswered points to end the suspense.
Deckinger said maintaining the right mental approach is the key to continued success.
“Not having the mindset of we can’t lose but the mindset we’re going win and the urgency to want to win,” she said.
Next up is a conference match against surging Bethel on Tuesday inside Mabee Arena. First serve will be at 7 p.m. Bethel (14-5) enters its match against Avila on Saturday having won nine of 10.