Too many times this season the Wichita State volleyball team has allowed opposing teams to hang around and steal sets.
Southern Illinois was looking like the next team to give the Shockers problems, tying the score at 19 in the second set after losing a tightly contested first set.
Instead of giving up momentum to the Salukis, Wichita State seized control of the game winning six of the next seven points to win the set in its 3-0 (25-20, 25-20, 25-16) victory on Saturday night at Koch Arena.
"I think we just looked at the scoreboard and all of us kind of looked at each other and were thinking, 'We're not going to lose this game,' " senior Emily Stockman said.
After a 1-2 road trip, the Shockers recovered with wins over Evansville and Southern Illinois, two of the better middle-tiered teams in the Missouri Valley, to improve their league record to 5-2.
"We really needed this win tonight," Backes said. "Our goal was to just beat them by a lot. Win it in three games. Get in and get out. We're sick of letting teams get to us and struggling."
On a night where neither team's offense was firing, it was the Shockers' defense that was the difference.
The back line was able to successfully dig most of the Salukis' attacks, holding them to a .119 hitting percentage for the contest. In the third set, Southern Illinois hit .000.
"This team has done a good job of closing in on teams' offenses," Wichita State coach Chris Lamb said. "We tinker a lot with the defense. We move people around. We make some adjustments to put pressure on good hitters and try to make other people beat you."
Southern Illinois made the Shockers work for their wins in the first two sets. In the first set, the Salukis came within 22-20, but WSU won the next three points. The next set the score was tied at 19, then the Shockers rallied.
But it didn't come easy. The winning point of the second set featured the game's longest rally, finally ending on a kill from Amanda Backes, who originally took the first swing in the rally.
"It just kept going back and forth," said Backes, who had five kills the second set. "I really wanted that ball that was up at the net between the two of us. So I'm glad we got that."
Surprisingly, the Shockers' offense was never able to get going. WSU hit. 175 for the match with Stockman adding 10 kills and Backes and Katie Niggemeyer adding eight each. Lamb once again tinkered with the offense and was pleased for the most part.
"We think we found something offensively that can be potent enough and hopefully efficient enough, sooner than later," Lamb said.
Although it wasn't talked about on the team, everyone knew the importance of the homestand.
"I definitely think it was a must-win all weekend," Stockman said. "They're two good teams, but they're definitely two teams we needed to beat."