By WJBC Staff
SPRINGFIELD, Mo. – The Illinois State (10-7, 4-3 MVC) volleyball team outlasted Missouri State (10-9, 5-3 MVC) 25-10, 25-19, 15-25, 23-25, 17-15, in a hard fought five-set battle Saturday night. The Redbirds were led by Stacey Niao with 16 kills and 13 digs. Jenny Menendez tied a match-high 19 digs and Kaitlyn Early compiled 51 assists and five kills. ISU had four players produce double-digit kills and double-digit digs.
The Redbirds marked the first point on the board with a kill from Brooklyn Hlafka and extended their lead to 8-6 with a kill from Niao and two ISU blocks. Missouri State tied the set at 9-9 and recorded a four-point run with three kills from Olivia Brand, putting the Bears ahead 12-9. Illinois State trailed through the middle of the set, until earning four-straight points and recording two-consecutive blocks to tie the set 19-19. Another ISU block gave the Redbirds the lead and the momentum to close the set 25-20.
Both teams exchanged points at the start of the second set until Illinois State broke away with kills from Ashley Rosch and Early to give ISU a 7-5 lead. The Redbirds displayed a strong defensive effort and forced Missouri State to produce two attack errors, which helped ISU extend its advantage to 16-9. Illinois State continued to control the net and posted two back-to-back blocks to end the set in a 25-19 victory.
Illinois State was off to a slow start in the third set and an early three-point string from MSU gave the bears a 6-3 lead. The Redbirds committed three unforced errors in four plays to give ISU an early 10-5 deficit. Niao posted four kills in the third set alone, but Illinois State was unable to regain a lead. Two late Redbird errors allowed Missouri State to seal the set win, 25-15.
The Redbirds got right to work in the fourth set and opened with a 4-1 lead with kills from Rosch, Emily Schneider, and Niao. Two-consecutive back row kills from Niao and a block from LeighAnn Hranka and Rosch extended the Redbird lead to 7-3. Illinois State maintained the lead until a service error changed the momentum of the game and set MSU off on a four-point string. The Redbirds were able to tally three kills late in the set, but fell 25-23.
Missouri State came out firing in the fifth set and jumped out to a 6-2 lead with the help of three Illinois State errors. The Bears were the first to reach eight points and extended its lead by five with two back-to-back kills after switching sides, 10-5. Illinois State continued to battle and tied the set at 12-12 with kills from Hlafka and Schneider. The Redbirds committed two-straight errors the following two plays, giving Missouri State its first match point, 14-12. Two more kills from Schneider put ISU back on the board and tied the game 15-15. The Bears committed an attack error to give ISU match point and a service ace from Niao ended the battle in a 17-15 win.
Illinois State will be back home next weekend to host Creighton and Drake Oct. 12-13.