San Antonio – Needing a strong finish in 2010 to set the stage for what became a hallmark season, the St. Mary’s volleyball team spent much of the offseason eyeing one area for improvement – a stronger start.
In a twist, it was the Lady Rattlers’ ability to finish that helped them continue impressive start to the new season Friday.
Hours after knocking off Pace 3-1 in the opening game of the St. Mary’s Volleyball Tournament, the Rattlers defeated East Central 3-2 in a >thrilling cap to the first day of the tournament at Bill Greehey Arena.
Day Two will begin at 10 a.m. Saturday, with the Rattlers (3-0) taking the court at Noon and 4 p.m.
“We were a little anxious, but I think overall excited,” said freshman Taylor Obermiller, a San Antonio native who came off the bench to play a major role in the Rattlers’ second victory on the day. “We were trying to get that good nervous energy that kept everyone pumped up.”
Despite advancing to the NCAA South Central Region tournament for the first time in school history last season, and despite winning the Heartland Conference Tournament for the first time since 2000, St. Mary’s didn’t get off to the best of starts in 2010.
The Rattlers stumbled out of the gate to a 3-7 mark, needing to win nine of 13 matches late in the season to accomplish what they did.
As such, they set their sights on finding their rhythm earlier this season. So far, so good.
RE-WATCH THE MATCH
St. Mary’s took the first two games against Pace (0-2), 25-23 and 25-19, before stumbling in the third set, 25-16. But the Rattlers rebounded, finishing off the Setters 25-23 to win in four.
Stephanie Proske (Sr., La Grange, Texas) posted 16 kills and hit .609 in the match, committing just two errors on 23 total attacks. Karlie Ortega (So., San Antonio) added 13 kills and 12 digs, while Kirsten Chapman (Sr., Jourdanton, Texas) had 11 kills.
Freshman libero Victorria Martinez, an Arlington, Texas native, led the team with 17 digs.
Against East Central, St. Mary’s led 2-0 but needed a fifth-set victory after watching East Central (0-2) stage an impressive comeback. St. Mary’s won the match 25-21, 25-23, 23-25, 16-25, 15-8.
Ortega led all Rattlers with 14 kills, while Obermiller added nine off the bench. Allie Murray, the sophomore from San Antonio, had 46 assists – fast showing she is more than capable of filling the shoes of setter Kori McCarver, who graduated after winning the Heartland Conference Player of the Year honors a year ago.
Martinez totaled 23 digs in the match, while Ortega and Melissa Dahle (So., San Antonio) added 18 and 13, respectively.
The Rattlers will round out the St. Mary’s Volleyball Tournament with a pair of matches Saturday, taking on Illinois-Springfield (0-2) at 12 p.m. and Tarleton State (2-0) at 4 p.m. Both matches can be watched live on rattlerathletics.com.