PIKEVILLE, Ky. – After losing the first set of a Mid-South Conference (MSC) match against Pikeville and falling behind by deficits of 10-9 in the second set and 24-20 in the third set, the Shawnee State volleyball team could have folded off into the abyss.
However, the Bears (10-7, 2-5 Mid-South) only got stronger when staring down adversity on Thursday evening.
Shawnee State used a 10-1 run in the second set and a 5-0 deficit in the third stanza – overcoming a game point situation in the latter set – to obtain 25-16 and 27-25 victories in each set to roll to a 3-1 match victory (19-25, 25-16, 27-25, 25-19) against Pikeville (9-9, 0-7 Mid-South) at the UPIKE Gym.
As a whole, the SSU frontline was on target throughout the night as Shawnee State finished with no less than a .292 attack percentage in all four of the sets played on the evening. In the second and fourth sets, SSU finished with an attack percentage of .419 and .414, respectively.
Both teams would battle back and forth to start the first match as Shawnee State scored the first four points of the match off of the strength of two kills by Lauren Helbig before Pikeville went on a 10-5 run to take a one-point lead.
From there, UPike would take control of the first set as Pikeville used a 12-4 tilt to close out the first set and took a 10-9 lead to start the second stanza of the contest.
That lead, however, was all that the Shawnee State squad would allow UPike to have as SSU went on a staggering 10-1 run due in large part to a pair of kills from Helbig and Christina Shelton as well as a service ace apiece from Madison Smith and Cassidy Shell in giving Shawnee State a 19-11 advantage in the second set.
At that point, SSU would cruise to the second set victory as the continued domination by Helbig and Shelton around the net rendered the Pikeville attack moot in taking the second stanza by nine points.
In the third set, both squads would come out hot right from the get-go as Shawnee State and UPike either tied or traded the lead a total of 15 times over the first 28 volleys.
When Pikeville took off on a 10-6 run to put the third set at game point, SSU looked to be in trouble as Shawnee State looked to be staring down the barrel of a 2-1 deficit.
Shawnee State, however, wasn’t having any of UPike, as Shawnee State went on arguably its most impactful run of the entire contest by taking a pair of kills from Helbig and an additional spike from Shell to take a huge 25-24 advantage.
A late timeout by Pikeville was not enough to shake SSU, as after UPike battled back to tie the score once again at 25 apiece, Shelton answered back with two straight kills off of assists from Bonnie Huesing to put the third set on ice and give Shawnee State a big 27-25 win in the third stanza of play.
That huge run in the third set was all SSU needed to fire up the troops for one final push, as Shawnee State used three kills each from Shelton and Brittany Mounts as well as another pair of kills from Helbig to turn a 4-3 advantage into a 19-10 lead.
From that point forward, SSU would not let Pikeville get closer than five points over the rest of the way as the three-headed monster of Helbig, Shelton and Mounts allowed Shawnee State to cruise to the 25-19 victory in the fourth and final set.
On the night, Helbig would lead SSU with a total of 18 kills and just two attack errors – recording an astounding .593 attack percentage in the process. Huesing added 43 assists and two solo blocks to head the Shawnee State efforts.
Meanwhile, Shelton and Mounts would set career highs in the same category, as the junior duo would record 18 and seven kills on the night while recording attack percentages of .375 and .462, respectively. Smith would make her presence felt on both ends by recording 13 digs and two service aces to cap off the evening for SSU.
Shawnee State will have a week of rest before returning to MSC play on Thursday, Oct. 1 as SSU will host Lindsey Wilson – who is ranked as the No. 6 team in the latest NAIA Top 25 Poll – at 5 p.m. in the Frank & Janis Waller Gymnasium.