As soon as Missouri scored the final point that ended Wichita State’s volleyball season, tears strolled down Emily Hiebert’s face.
The realization set in for Wichita State, defeated by Missouri 3-1 in the second round of the NCAA Tournament, that Saturday would be the last time the Shockers’ seniors would play in a college volleyball match.
When the post-game news conference began, Hiebert was joined by fellow seniors Abbie Lehman and Mikaela Raudsepp. It was not playing volleyball that the seniors, especially Raudsepp, would miss most.
It would be being around the people they built relationships with during their four-year journey.
“I’m leaving with best friends, people that I never would have encountered elsewhere, and people that know the deepest part of me,” Raudsepp said. “The way I react to tough situations, they know how to get me out of those. They know how to pick me up and celebrate. I couldn’t ask for a better group of people to be with.”
Wichita State coach Chris Lamb was not thinking about the fact that he was not going to get to coach those three again. He was thinking about how they added to the history of the program.
Lamb said he never coached a superstar like Chelsey Feekin (2009-13), but added that he can add the three seniors in the discussion. Lamb mentioned that while their talent may be a difficult one to replace, it will be their character and work ethic that will be the bigger obstacle.
“The first thing we’re going to do is going to celebrate that they’re gone. I don’t mean it that they’re gone gone. I mean that we did everything right,” Lamb said. “You’re talking about three of the most special people that I know. Sometimes you run into superstars that aren’t always as easy to deal with from time to time.
“Absolutely not the case with Emily Hiebert, Mikaela Raudsepp and Abbie Lehman. They were like freshmen trying to learn for four years.”
Throughout the season, the seniors had carried Wichita State through adversity. The underclassmen used their relationship with the seniors as motivation to not let the Shockers go down without a fight in the third and fourth sets.
Junior Alex Koon ignited the Shockers in the third set with four kills that gave the Shockers a 25-21 victory. Koon’s six kills in the fourth set kept the Shockers alive and kept the home-court crowd of 7,258 active.
Koon finished with a career-high of 15 kills, hitting .500.
“(The seniors) worked so hard for us every day. They’ve given so much to this program,” Koon said. “I feel like it’s the least I could do, to give it my all for them. They’ve given their all for so long. They absolutely deserve it.”
Despite not reaching their goal of becoming the second Wichita State program to reach the Sweet 16, the senior class came to the understanding that the set milestones that classes will attempt to accomplish. A 20-0 mark to win the school’s first title in the American Athletic Conference and being the first Shocker team to host an NCAA regional are accomplishments that was not going to “define anything this year, and that includes the last one,” according to Lamb.
While the Shockers’ ending brought tears to the seniors’ eyes, their accomplishments brought smiles to their faces.
“It’s hard to see it right now. We had a lot of goals this season, and one of them was to make the Sweet 16. Everyone here thought that was something we could accomplish,” Lehman said. “When you look at the whole season and team, I’m super proud of everybody. We had a goal going into (the American) to be undefeated and we went out and we did that. I couldn’t be prouder of this team.”