PORTSMOUTH – The Shawnee State University volleyball program used career-high performances from Lauren Helbig and Bonnie Huesing – the former with 20 kills, the latter with 47 assists – to outlast Indiana University-East by a 3-2 tally (25-22, 25-20, 22-25, 21-25, 15-12) in a nonconference affair at Frank & Janis Waller Gymnasium on Saturday afternoon.
Throughout the contest, the Bears and the Red Wolves were nearly dead even in every statistical category, with the Red Wolves holding the slightest advantage in kills, assists, points, digs, and blocks.
However, Shawnee State held the edge in a category that is arguably the most important stat in volleyball – errors – as the Bears committed 25 errors to IU-East’s 28 en route to the victory.
From the outset, both teams were locked in a gauntlet as the duo combined to tie each other 14 times over the first 42 volleys to create a 21-all contest in the first frame.
That’s when Ashley Galbrath came up large for the Bears, as the senior struck with two huge kills (including the set winner) to allow Shawnee State to close on a 4-1 run and take the early match lead.
Early on in the second set, the Red Wolves showed that they had answered the bell by obtaining a 12-7 advantage early on in the contest.
Two consecutive kills by Christina Shelton, however, fiercely halted any momentum that IU-East had built up as the Bears used kills from four different Shawnee State players (Shelton, Helbig, Galbrath, and Miranda Clark) to go on a massive 15-3 tilt and obtain a comfortable 22-15 lead that would not be touched for the remainder of the match as the Bears rolled to a 25-20 win in the second set to obtain a sizeable 2-0 match advantage.
That sizeable match advantage, however, did not phase the Red Wolves. After falling behind to Shawnee State by a 13-9 advantage in the third set, IU-East went on a 6-0 run to take a 15-13 edge.
Then, with the Bears making a valiant effort to close the set down to deficits of 22-21 and 23-22, the Red Wolves obtained kills from Mallory Livingston and Morgan Steinbrunner to help close the set out with a 25-22 victory.
Shawnee State would again jump out to an early advantage as the Bears took leads of 5-2 and 8-5 to begin the fourth stanza of play. Ever the fighters, IU-East went on a 15-7 blast to take a 20-15 advantage en route to tying the match up at two sets apiece.
It was the Bears, however, who would save the best for last. Fueled by an urge to rid themselves of a two-game skid, Shawnee State put up its best overall set performance of the night in recording eight kills to just one error in 22 attack chances, recording a .318 attack percentage in the process.
As a result, the Bears were able to erase a 2-0 deficit early in the fifth and final set by getting attack contributions from four different players again during a 9-2 run, with Clark, Galbrath, Helbig, and Shelton each recording a kill to obtain a 9-4 lead.
The Red Wolves would make one last furious rally in recording three straight kills from Livingston to cap off an 8-4 swing to cut the lead to just a single point in the final set, but Galbrath would finish the game as she started it with another clutch spike to put the deficit back to a 14-12 advantage, with a serve error in the final volley by Livingston allowing the Bears to come away with the match victory by the aforementioned 3-2 count.
In addition to Huesing’s career-high total of 47 assists, the junior also matched a career high with 5 kills while adding 13 digs to the table in contributing in all phases of the contest.
Helbig’s 20 digs were followed by 14 from Clark and 12 from Galbrath, all of which were career-highs. Madison Smith would lead the way in the digs category with 29, while Cassidy Shell and Rhyanna Day accumulated 19 and 12, respectively, with Shell’s total also representing a career-high.
Beginning next weekend, Shawnee State will being a near-three week tilt without another home game as the Bears will play four consecutive Mid-South Conference (MSC) matches on the road.
The away slate will begin on Saturday, September 19th as Shawnee State will play Life (Ga.) in a MSC doubleheader, with the first game starting at 12 p.m. and the second contest commencing at approximately 2:30 p.m in Marietta.