VOLLEYBALL: Knights Grind Out Three-Set Win Over Buffaloes
September 12, 2017 by Christopher Gleason, Arizona State University
St. Mary’s started slow but finished strong in the first two sets, then dominated the final frame to beat the Tempe Buffaloes in three (25-20, 25-21, 25-12) Tuesday night in Phoenix.
The teams went back and forth in the beginning, as the Knights led 7-4 early only to trail 13-10 by the middle of the set. Then, head coach September Lopez called her first timeout.
“I told them that we’re not doing something right,” Lopez said, “so either we’re not getting our serves over or we’re not being aggressive.”
The coach’s message got through, as the Knights went on a 10-2 run coming out of the break before Buffaloes head coach Doug Kiefer called a timeout of his own.
The strategy didn’t work as well for Tempe, however, as Saint Mary’s finished what it started and won the first set 25-20.
The second set proved the most crucial, as it often is, and both teams played like it. There were four lead changes, making for a back and forth battle from start to finish.
The Buffaloes came out on the attack first, scoring four of the first five points and taking an 8-4 lead.
Lopez once again called timeout, and once again the Knights responded with a run, scoring eight consecutive points to go ahead 12-8.
“If we’re behind in a timeout it’s just, 'Let’s stop making our own mistakes and let’s go out there and play fundamental volleyball,'” Lopez said.
Tempe clawed back though, taking advantage of Knights errors and miscommunication to build a 17-14 lead.
St. Mary’s ultimately pulled through, as three kills by Hannah Sullivan and two kills by Kathy Herrera helped the team’s late rally. Three consecutive kills by Leilani Clark sealed the deal for the Knights in set two.
“I think as a team we just came together and told each other to calm down,” Clark said. “We just build each other up and make sure everyone is OK.”
St. Mary’s cruised through the third set, as Tempe continued to have problems coordinating amid the presence of a vocal St. Mary’s student section.
“I think it helped us because they encouraged us to do better and they just kept the (other) team down and didn’t let them make a point,” Clark said.
As for on the court, Gracie Brittain came up big for the Knights in set three, recording a trio of service aces and a kill.
Overall, it was a balanced St. Mary’s attack, as Clark, Sullivan and Herrera all tied for the team lead in kills with seven. Jennifer Obregon was a presence at the net as well, recording five kills and two blocks.
Alana Holloway led the Tempe attack, tallying six kills on the night. Kiefer did find some positive in the loss, praising his team’s effort.
“I thought our hustle was really good,” Kiefer said. “Our blocking was pretty solid, we’re getting a lot of touches and we had a lot of stuff blocks tonight.”
Tempe falls to 1-5 with the loss, and returns to action Thursday versus Coronado at 6 p.m.
St. Mary’s improves to 2-2 with the victory, and visits Apache Junction Thursday at 6 p.m.