With victories over Missouri Valley Conference rivals Wichita State and Missouri State, the Illinois State volleyball team now boasts a 7-0 Valley record, good for sole-possession of first place in MVC rankings.
The Redbird’s “Paint the Arena Pink” match on Saturday concluded in a four-set win, (25-16, 25-23, 18-25, 27-25).
“This was huge for us. It is an accomplishment to take both of [the teams] down in one weekend. It’s awesome,” ISU middle blocker LeighAnn Hranka said.
ISU vs. Missouri State
In the first set against the Missouri State Bears on Saturday, the teams traded points and tied it up at 10. An overpass from the Bears gave Rosch the opportunity for a kill and the ’Birds were up 12-10. Hranka got a service ace and a kill while another kill by Ashley Rosch and Kaitlyn Early increased the score 17-13. ISU took the set with a 9-3 run, with a cross-court kill by Hranka, 25-16.
In between the first and second set of the “Paint the Arena Pink” game, cancer survivors of the community were encouraged to stand up and be recognized. Throughout the match $1 hot dogs and $1 pink lemonade were sold in an attempt to raise money for cancer research.
To open the second set, Stacey Niao served two service aces. However, the Bears went on a run to get the lead 6-3. The Redbirds fought to get within one, 10-9, on a kill from Hlafka after a long rally. The Bears continued to lead the set, 21-17, before the ’Birds went on a 5-0 run to get the lead, 22-21. Hranka’s service ace put ISU in the lead. Emily Schneider had a solo block to tie the score up at 23. ISU won the second set, 25-23.
“Missouri State is a really good offensive team,” Head Coach Melissa Myers said. “They really battled it out.”
The Redbirds got ahead early in the third set with a 6-2 lead before the Bears went on an 8-1 run. Strong offensive action from the Bears got the team a lead of 17-9 over the Redbirds. ISU tried to make a comeback and put the score at 22-17, with a kill from Rosch, but the Bears finished out the set and won, 25-8.
“Missouri State was amazing on defense and they really forced us into a lot of tough points,” Myers said.
The Bears’ momentum carried over into the fourth set as they had a 7-3 lead, but ISU answered with an 8-2 run taking the lead, 11-9. Soon after, Missouri State’s Amber Doolittle had two service aces and took back the lead. Two back-to-back kills from Niao tied the game up, 17-17. The Bears had a 22-19 advantage before they gave up a service error and Hranka got a kill to tie the set again at 22. Niao put away another kill before Early and Hranka blocks brought the ’Birds to match point, 24-22. The match ended with kills from Early and Schneider to claim a Redbird victory, 27-25.
“I’m just so happy for our team and the way the ladies played today,” Myers said. “It wasn’t going to be something that was going to be clean or simple … I can’t say how proud I am of the way they were able to focus in.”
ISU vs. Wichita State
In the first set against Wichita on Friday, ISU scored four-straight points to get the lead early, 7-2. The Shockers got within two points, 9-7, but the ’Birds went on a 6-0 run, forcing a timeout with the score 15-7. During the run, three Redbirds recorded kills, while Danielle Donahue earned a service ace. Wichita State had back-to-back points, but that did not stop ISU from winning the first set 25-14. Hranka put away five kills, while Niao and Brooklyn Hlafka had three. Emily Orrick picked up seven digs and the ’Birds had six blocks.
Wichita State took the lead in the second set, 7-2, forcing an ISU timeout. The timeout did not seem to slow the Shockers’ momentum as they went on an 8-1 run and the Redbirds used another timeout, 15-3. After the second timeout ISU went on a 5-0 run, but the Shockers took the set, 25-13. ISU had 10 hitting errors in the second set.
ISU took an 8-3 lead in the third set. The teams went back-and-forth with points before the ’Birds scored four-straight points, 18-11. ISU won the set 25-18. Early got 14 assists in the third set.
The Redbirds had a 12-6 lead before the Shockers took a timeout. After, the Redbirds went on a 5-0 run increasing the score to 21-13. Hlafka put down two kills during the run. Later in the set ISU called a timeout and after the break they scored back-to-back points, 23-16. ISU ended the match by winning the set, 25-18.
The ’Birds will take the road next weekend to face Northern Iowa and Drake on Oct. 18 and 19, respectively.