NORMAL — It’s been a long six years since Illinois State volleyball gave the home crowd a victory over Missouri Valley Conference stalwart Missouri State. That streak ended Friday night as the Redbirds beat the Bears for the first time in seven matches — sweeping them to boot (25-22, 25-23, 25-20).
Senior Mallory Leggett, who had a team-high 12 kills, erupted with a joyful scream and celebrated with her teammates after match point was secured.
“The last time we beat them was our freshmen year in the conference tournament. That’s a long time going without beating them,” Leggett said. “It feels good because we are a really good team, and we know that we can come out and play these teams and beat them.”
Twin City natives Jenny Menendez and Kristin Stauter came up big on defense for the Redbirds (14-9, 3-6 MVC) with 16 and 14 digs, respectively. Stauter had a match-high 32 assists as well.
“Jenny did a really good job covering our hitters because they have pretty big blocks,” said ISU blocker LeighAnn Hranka. “Kristin did a good job of playing defense first and not releasing.”
ISU was down 8-4 early in the first set, but steadily cut into the Missouri State (16-5, 7-3 MVC) lead and pulled even at 17-17. The Redbirds took a 20-17 lead and were up 22-20 before the Bears managed to tie it at 22-22. Three straight Redbird points gave them a 1-0 advantage.
The second set proved fairly tight with eight ties and four lead changes. ISU took the lead for good at 17-16 but never led by more than three points.
“We knew we were playing well, but we knew … that they were going to fight hard. They aren’t going to give up easily.” Leggett said of going up 2-0.
ISU led by as many as eight points (19-11) in the third set, but five straight Missouri State points got the Bears to within three at 19-16. MSU cut the lead to two at 21-19 and 22-20 before surrendering three straight points.
“It’s a huge confidence builder I think for this team right now. I hope it leads them to more wins in the second half because we are going to need them,” said ISU coach Melissa Myers. “We are behind and we’ve got to scratch and claw our way up this conference.
“This team can do great things. … I think tonight was a great example of what we can do when we can sustain that high level.”