BY ROB LAPLANTE
With a 3-0 victory last Thursday over Monticello, the St. Michael-Albertville volleyball squad is again challenging for the Mississippi 8 title.
With a conference record of 5-1 heading into Tuesday’s showdown with Rogers, the Knights trail only Buffalo for the conference lead – the same Bison that were co-champions with STMA one season ago.
In a match played at St. Michael back on Sept. 11, the Magic gave the Knights a hard-fought battle. STMA eventually prevailed in five sets. Last Thursday’s rematch in Monticello wasn’t nearly as dramatic. STMA took care of Monticello 25-17, 25-19, 25-8. The match took a little over an hour to complete.
“The Monticello match was a fun one,” said head coach Ryan Dehnel. “When we played them the first time, we were missing a couple key players and the team was still getting used to those girls.”
The Knights fell behind early in set two to the Magic. Thanks to some poised play and a strong service game, STMA ended up winning the set by four points.
“We had a great service run that set by sophomore Kate Drimel,” Dehnel said. “I was proud that we didn’t freak out when they jumped in the lead.”
Junior middle Courtney Wooters led the attack with 10 kills. It was another strong defensive match for the Knights. Senior libero Candice Yager had 13 digs and 19 successful service receptions.
Following the trend in 2012, the Knights lost an earlier match in the week with a 3-0 defeat last Tuesday at Delano. STMA fell in three sets 25-21, 25-21, 25-16 to the Tigers.
While STMA has compiled a winning record in the conference, away from the Mississippi 8 hasn’t been as friendly. The Delano loss dropped STMA’s non-conference record this year to 2-5.
Delano junior Shelby Seurer led all players with 20 kills. Seurer also added nine digs, one block and one service ace. Junior outside hitters Meagan Ghinter and sophomore Freya Macari Hanson led the Knights offensively with seven kills each.
The Knights non-conference woes continued into Monday, when their record fell to 2-6 after falling in three sets to Bethlehem Academy. The Knights will play at Rogers on Tuesday. Starting Friday, the Knights look to improve on their non-conference record when they host the annual STMA Invite. A year ago, the Knights finished 13th out of 32 teams.
“We’ve got a pretty solid lineup now,” Dehnel said. “It’s time to work on raising our game another level before playoffs.”