San Antonio – With the injury list growing by the day, the St. Mary’s Rattlers’ volleyball team came into Thursday night knowing someone would have to step up.

That they did.

Outside hitters Karlie Ortega and Taylor Obermiller each recorded career highs with 22 and 13 kills, respectively, while freshmen Julie Kells and Devan Hartung received their first career starts in a 3-1 victory over Texas-Permian Basin before 413 fans at Bill Greehey Arena.

Setter Allie Murray (Jr., San Antonio) added a whopping 51 assists, punctuating a night that began with a ceremony honoring a pair of academic achievements from the 2010 season, when the Rattlers earned the AVCA’s Team Academic Award and former setter Kori McCarver was named the Heartland Conference’s Scholar-Athlete of the Year.

“It was good to start tonight,” said Kells, a redshirt freshman from Red Deer, Alberta, Canada, who along with Hartung (Fr., Hondo, Texas) got the start with Kelsey Huber (Fr., San Antonio) and Mallory Moeller (Sr., Geronimo, Texas) out. “It was a really important game tonight. We needed to prove that we could beat UTPB and start out strong. It’s a good showing in conference.”

With the victory, the red-hot Rattlers improved to 11-1 on the season with a 2-1 mark in Heartland Conference play. It also keeps them a game out of first place behind leaders Arkansas-Fort Smith and St. Edward’s, both of whom are 3-0 in league play.

UTPB dropped to 7-7 with a 1-2 conference record.

Thursday’s victory didn’t start out as easily as the Rattlers ended up making it look.

Texas-Permian Basin stole the first set 25-21, only to see St. Mary’s storm back by sweeping the next three, 25-23, 25-16, 25-20.

With Ortega (So., San Antonio) and Obermiller (Fr., San Antonio) firing one rocket after another into the Falcons’ defense, St. Mary’s soared after the slow start.

Ortega and libero Victorria Martinez led the team with 19 digs each, while Murray added 13. Melissa Dahle (So., San Antonio) recorded 11 digs.

“There’s no pressure,” Kells said. “We’re just going to stay focused on keeping up with the wins. We just keep pushing strong and focus on us.”

St. Mary’s will return to the court Saturday, when it hosts Oklahoma Panhandle State in another conference tilt at 12 p.m. at Bill Greehey Arena. The game will be broadcast live on

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