Warrensburg, Mo. – Mallory Moeller looks back at her individual ascent this season and can hardly believe her once-timid self.

She lacked confidence as recently as last month, an understandable feeling considering she was playing outside hitter for the first time of her career.

“But each game I got a little more confident in my abilities,” said the St. Mary’s University junior, a native of Geronimo, Texas. “I think it showed.”

Oh, it definitely showed.

In fact, her personal climb perfectly mirrored what the program enjoyed as a whole.

Few expected the team to qualify for the postseason when the Rattlers’ record dipped to 6-13 midway through the season.

But there they were Thursday night, going toe to toe with the top team in the region.

Top-seeded Central Missouri topped No. 8 St. Mary’s 3-0 (25-19, 25-17, 25-10) at home in the opening round of the NCAA Division II South Central Region tournament, bringing to an end the Rattlers’ remarkable run that saw them reach the regional tourney for the first time since 1998.

Snapping through their midseason funk, the Rattlers (15-18) soared into the Heartland Conference Tournament, which they ended up winning for the first time since 2000.

In all, St. Mary’s reeled off nine victories over its final 14 matches, a string of success that helped mitigate the sting of Thursday’s defeat.

Sure, the Rattlers wanted to pull off the upset, but they realize the importance of what was accomplished in this, coach Jenny Warmack-Chipman’s first season at the helm.

“Of course I would have liked it to end a little better, but overall it’s a fabulous way to end our season,” said Moeller, who had a team-high eight kills against Central Missouri. “We started peaking at the right time. Nobody even expected us to win conference. The fact we did, that was huge.”

Still, Moeller couldn’t help but feel like one might have slipped away Thursday. St. Mary’s jumped to an 8-1 lead in the first set, but the Jennies rebounded the way one might expect the No. 1 seed to respond.

They caught fire, evening the score 11-11 en route to winning three straight sets.

“I think that’s what makes losing to them so frustrating,” Moeller said. “I thought we did compete with them. We had just has good of passers, just as good of hitters.”

Stephanie Flores (Jr., San Antonio) recorded a team-high eight digs, while Kori McCarver (Sr., San Antonio – the Heartland Conference Player of the Year – led the Rattlers with 19 assists.

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