San Antonio – St. Mary’s faced its third straight 3-0 match, only this time falling off from the sweep of rival Incarnate Word in a 3-0 loss to University of Texas-Permian Basin Thursday.

The loss to the Falcons (11-12, 4-5 in conference) hit St. Mary’s (13-8, 4-5 in conference) hard and will likely loom for the remainder of the season as it could determine whether or not the Rattlers advance to the Heartland Conference tournament.

“We really needed a win tonight to secure a spot in the tournament,” said the Rattlers’ lone senior this season, Allie Murray (San Antonio), following the home loss at Bill Greehey Arena. “As of right now it looks like we need to win out, and right now that’s our goal. We have a few conference matches left, and we really need to beat everyone that we have left.”

The senior accurately predicts the rest of St. Mary’s season, which will be high-intensity, do-or-die matches for the Rattlers’ five remaining conference games. The Rattlers dropped to a tie with UTPB for fifth place in the rankings after Thursday’s loss, but are essentially in sixth due to the Falcons holding the tiebreaker following the season sweep.

St. Mary’s fight for the remainder of season was seen against the Falcons, as the first two sets were won by just two at 24-26, 24-26. But as the Falcons are also fighting in their own right for a chance at the title, they charged for a 25-18 third-set victory, denying a Rattler comeback.

“We came out really strong Tuesday and we were really happy with the way we played,” says Murray, who led with 19 assists against the Falcons. “And tonight we just couldn’t find it.”

Freshman Jenna Paul (Alvin, Texas) was able find open spots Thursday, leading the Rattlers with 11.5 points and 11 kills, followed by Kelsey Huber (So., San Antonio) with eight kills and 10 points.

The Rattlers’ stats matched fairly evenly with the Falcons’ except for one, which might have been the deciding factor in Thursday’s loss. So far this season, St. Mary’s has found success through hard, consistent kills, a strategy the Falcons may have picked up on as they totaled 16 blocks with 28 block assists to St. Mary’s five blocks and six block assists.

St. Mary’s has no other choice but to look ahead, a plan senior Murray moves toward with confidence in her team.

“We’re really working on putting the pieces together right now because they were together for awhile,” she said. “But we’ll be fine.”

The Rattlers will play their third straight home game against provisional conference member McMurry University on Saturday at Bill Greehey Arena at 12 p.m.

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