When the Wichita State volleyball team lost at Missouri State in five sets last month, Bears coach Melissa Stokes told Shocker coach Chris Lamb her team needed that win.
Lamb felt the same way Friday night at Koch Arena.
Rallying from a 2-1 deficit, Wichita State defeated Missouri State 3-2 (23-25, 25-21, 19-25, 25-19, 15-11) and moved into a tie for third place with the Bears in the Missouri Valley Conference.
“Much like what Missouri State was going through when they beat us in October, I feel like we’ve been going through a little bit of a lull,” Lamb said. “This win could catapult us.”
Lamb thought the last time his team beat a “better team” was back in early September, when the Shockers defeated Texas-San Antonio.
Perhaps just as important as the conference win was the Shockers knowing they can beat quality opponents.
“Being up high in the standings, there are only so many opportunities on your schedule that can give you the feeling we have tonight,” Lamb said. “You start starving for those wins that make you realize you’re getting better. It’s been a while since we felt like we’ve earned something for our hard work and teams need that.”
The two teams exchanged 17 ties and nine lead changes in the first set and no team had a lead greater than two points. Missouri State hit .333 for the set, while Wichita State managed just .094 with seven errors.
The Shockers closed the second set on a 7-2 run and were much more efficient on the attack. They hit .257, with Kristin Byers leading the way with four kills.
Missouri State opened with a 10-7 lead, but Wichita State scored 18 of the final 29 points.
Fueled by a 17-5 run to open the third set, the Bears were able to outlast the Shockers late rally.
Again, it was a poor hitting attack that plagued Wichita State in the third, as it hit .077. Missouri State hit .235.
The Shockers went on a 13-6 run to cut the Bears lead to 23-18, but the errors early in the set were too much to overcome.
“After we got down in the third set, Coach (Sean) Carter said, ‘There is a lot of volleyball left, so let’s learn something,’” Lamb said.
Wichita State trailed Missouri State 5-4 early in the fourth set, but then answered with a 13-4 run to take a 16-8 lead. The Bears got as close at 23-19, but no closer.
The Shockers hit a match-best .375, with 17 kills to two errors.
Abbie Lehman recorded five kills in the set, while Ashlyn Driskill added four.
“We had energy before the match, but the energy we felt starting in the fourth set was unreal,” said Driskill, who finished with a team-high 17 kills. “The energy just kept going and everyone was contributing.”
Much like the fourth set, Wichita State controlled the net in the fifth set. The Shockers hit .333, while the Bears hit their worst percentage of the match at .100.
Driskill had four kills.
Trailing 10-4, Missouri State went on a 7-3 run to cut its deficit to three, but the Shockers scored the final two points of the set.
“After the fourth set, we told each other we were going to leave this gym happy and feeling good about ourselves,” Lehman said. “This win is huge, because if we want to be on top of conference, that was a team we had to beat.”