FORT SMITH, Ark. – For all their wins, all their successes in the 2011 season, the St. Mary’s Rattlers were reminded of a harsh reality Saturday.
The sport can be cruel.
The Lady Rattlers’ volleyball team was dealt its first loss of the year in a 3-0 defeat to Arkansas-Fort Smith, breaking the team’s historic 10-game winning streak to start the campaign.
But it wasn’t the loss on the scoreboard that stung the most – no, it was the loss of senior star and leader Mallory Moeller that was difficult to swallow.
Moeller, an outside hitter from Geronimo, Texas, went down with an apparent foot injury in the opening minutes of Saturday’s match. She stayed on the ground for more than five minutes before being helped away by trainers and did not return.
Moeller, last year’s Most Valuable Player of the Heartland Conference Tournament, was just beginning to rediscover her groove after missing part of camp with an injury. She had a season-high 16 kills in Thursday’s five-set victory over Newman, flashing the athletic brilliance and force that turned her into one of the team’s most valuable players down the stretch last season.
With Moeller sidelined Saturday, the Rattlers struggled to find their offensive rhythm in a battle of Heartland Conference heavyweights.
St. Mary’s (10-1, 1-1 Heartland Conference) fell to UA Fort Smith (10-2, 2-0) 17-25, 18-25, 13-25.
Karlie Ortega (So., San Antonio) led the Rattlers with eight kills, followed closely by Kirsten Chapman’s (Sr., Jourdanton, Texas) six and Stephanie Proske’s (Sr., La Grange, Texas) five. Allie Murray (Jr., San Antonio) recorded 27 assists, while Victorria Martinez (Fr., Arlington, Texas) registered 15 digs.
Being beaten at the net, the Lions out-blocked the Rattlers 10-1.
The defeat marked the first of the year for St. Mary’s, which set the school record for best start to a season by opening 10-0. The previous mark for the program, which started varsity competition in 1976, was 9-0, set in 1996.
St. Mary’s will return to the court Thursday, when they host Texas-Permian Basin at 7 p.m. at Alumni Athletics & Convocation Center, Bill Greehey Arena. With any luck, Moeller will be there with the rest of the Rattlers, eyeing the start of a new streak.
NOTEBOOK: Before next Thursday’s match, the University will honor last year’s team for receiving the AVCA Team Academic Award and will also recognize former Rattler Kori McCarver, who was recently named last year’s Heartland Conference Scholar-Athlete of the Year.