San Antonio – Like most of the St. Mary’s University volleyball players, junior right side hitter Adrianna Keys was slow to emerge from the locker room Thursday night.

The women stayed late following a 3-1 loss to Newman University in the Rattlers’ first Heartland Conference game, not so much to dwell on the defeat at home but to discuss their future.

The Rattlers (3-7, 0-1) saw how good they could be in storming out to a 1-0 lead, an early advantage that was fueled by dominant showings from Keys (San Antonio) and senior setter Kori McCarver (San Antonio).

But somewhere along the way, the match began to get away from them, as Newman (4-6, 1-0) fought back from a 25-19 loss to win three straight by the scores of 25-21, 25-14 and 25-22 at Bill Greehey Arena.

And after talking things over at length, Keys said the Rattlers think they think they know what went wrong.

“I think it’s mostly mental,” said Keys, who had seven kills, three digs, a blocked shot and three block assists. “We’re a good, athletic team. We can move the ball. We’re fast. We’re good all around. It’s just mental, being able to let go of something and execute.”

On this night, Keys said part of what the Rattlers struggled to let go of was the realization that Newman withstood their early punch and kept playing with authority.

Instead of fading away, Newman won a tightly contested second game before playing its best set of the night in the third. Twenty-two attacking errors and 12 service errors from the Rattlers didn’t help, Keys said.

“We talked about a lot of our unforced errors and what we think we should do to change it and come back and turn it around Saturday,” said Keys, who graduated from Lee High School.

McCarver had a team-high 13 kills to go along with 32 assists and 10 digs, while senior outside hitter Kate Kershner (San Antonio) had 10 kills to go along with a team-high 18 digs.

Junior libero/defensive specialist Stephanie Flores (San Antonio), the reigning Heartland Conference Libero of the Week, had 13 digs. Middle blockers Kirsten Chapman (Jr., Jourdanton, Texas) and Stephanie Proske (Jr., LaGrange, Texas) added seven and eight kills, respectively.

But for all the Rattlers’ stats – and early dominance – Keys said it wasn’t enough. And she thinks she and the rest of the Rattlers now know why.

“I think now that we’ve seen it, that this is important and that we have to make those mental changes ourselves, it’ll be much easier. This was a real-life experience. We have to do it now to get back on track.”

The Rattlers return to the court at 2 p.m. Saturday, when they will host the University of Arkansas-Fort Smith.

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