San Antonio – Mere seconds into Thursday night’s season opener, St. Mary’s junior defensive specialist Stephanie Flores went after a loose ball by diving head first onto the hardwood at Bill Greehey Arena.
It was great effort, to be sure, but all but reactive for the Rattlers these days.
St. Mary’s opened the 2010 season with a blistering 3-0 sweep of Southwestern Oklahoma State University, winning 25-15, 25-20 and 25-14 before a lively home crowd at the St. Mary’s Invitational.
Flores’ early hustle symbolized the kind of night the Rattlers (1-0) had to launch the season.
“You don’t want balls hitting the ground without somebody making the effort,” said senior outside hitter Kate Kershner. “Maybe a few balls hit the ground tonight, but there were people on the ground for them. Our defense was one of the main things that won the games.”
New coach Jenny Warmack-Chipman wouldn’t have it any other way.
During a scrimmage against Our Lady of the Lake University last week, Warmack-Chipman observed a number of unforced errors caused by the Rattlers not diving for loose balls. The very next day, she put her players through a grueling set of drills geared to reshape their approach to such situations.
“I don’t think she realized it was one of our bigger weaknesses until that scrimmage,” Kershner said. “She saw it and was like, ‘We’re not losing because of that.'”
The payoff came Thursday, as the Rattlers’ enlivened approach fueled the sweep.
Junior middle blocker Kirsten Chapman (Jourdanton, Texas) dominated the interior with 11 kills and seven blocks, while fellow middle blocker Stephanie Proske (LaGrange, Texas) had eight kills. Kershner (San Antonio) added 14 digs, while Flores (San Antonio) had 12.
The Rattlers will retake the court inside Bill Greehey Arena for a pair of games Friday, playing Wheeling Jesuit University at 3 p.m. and Washburn University at 8 p.m.