With its back pressed firmly against the wall, the Helias volleyball team came out swinging.
Following a back-and-forth start to the first game, the Lady Crusaders put on a great finishing kick to win it.
The momentum carried over to the second game as Helias got off to a great start and put away the Rolla Lady Bulldogs by a 26-24, 25-12 score at Rackers Fieldhouse.
"Obviously I'm glad we won that first game, but it shouldn't have come to that point," Helias coach David Harris said. "We were up 19-12 and missed a serve after a timeout and then had some hitting errors."
That first game was a roller-coaster ride. After Rolla took an 8-7 lead, Helias ripped off seven straight points.
The Lady Crusaders later got two straight kills from Erica Haslag on overpasses by Rolla to take that 19-12 lead.
But after four straight errors by Helias, the lead started to shrink. Rolla used the momentum to take 12 of 15 points and a 24-22 lead.
"It's the same problem that we've had pretty much all year - we give points away in bunches," Harris said. "Most of the time it's self-inflicted, so hopefully that's correctable."
But the Lady Bulldogs got a little tight after a Helias timeout, committing a hitting error. They followed with two more errors to give Helias game point, and the Lady Crusaders closed it on a Tory Wiley kill.
"It's the same old thing about getting that killer instinct going for us," Harris said. "When you've got a team down, you've got to keep pushing the point and not letting them get confidence that they can beat you. And Rolla had confidence in that first game."
The start of the second game looked just like the end of the first game. Rolla committed five errors while Helias got two kills from Haslag and one each from Wiley, Laura Schieber and Lindsey Griggs while racing out to a 10-1 lead.
While the Lady Bulldogs did come back with five straight points, the Lady Crusaders were never in danger after the hot start.
"I challenged them with a goal in between games," Harris said. "... Over on the bench, they were talking about it, "No more points, no more points.'
"Their intensity level, their focus, their sense of urgency was better in the second game. Whether it was the result of that challenge, they just took some pride in how they were going to play."
A great example of that intensity came with the Lady Crusaders up 18-10. After Molly Sandbothe dove for a ball, only to see it picked up by a teammate, Sandbothe recovered and came up with a perfect set from her knees that Schieber put down for a kill.
"It was a great set," Harris said. "And those kind of things are contagious. You see one person doing it and everybody else wants to get in on it."
Haslag ended with eight kills and three blocks to pace the Lady Crusaders, while Wiley and Schieber added five kills apiece. Blake Berhorst picked up 10 digs and Brittney Engelbrecht handed out 13 assists.
Helias (10-2) returns to action Thursday when it hosts Fatima. The JV game will start at 5:30 p.m., with the varsity contest expected to start around 6:30 p.m.
In the JV game, Helias rolled to a 25-13, 25-8 victory.
Hannah Eynard had six kills and two blocks for the Lady Crusaders (12-1), Andi Gladbach had nine service points, Lexy Lamb had eight assists, Megan Brown had seven digs and Suzie Kuensting had two blocks.
Helias posted a 25-10, 25-16 win in the freshman match.
Morgan Fischer had seven service points and 11 assists for Helias (12-1), Ella Ward had nine kills, Laura Vanderfeltz had 12 digs, Abby Shepard had 12 assists and Maddie Neuner had three aces.