San Antonio – St. Mary’s and Texas A&M International waged a spirited, back-and-forth match on the volleyball court Tuesday night, but it was something other than the exciting play that stole the show midway through the opening set.
That distinction belonged to St. Mary’s fan Nolan Senft.
With the Bill Greehey Arena crowd growing tired from a lengthy, 10-minute delay over a Rattler point that was missing from the scoreboard, the freshman student from Fort Worth, Texas literally took the stage in what would become a pivotal 3-2 victory for St. Mary’s.
Urged on by the Rowdy Rattlers, Senft stood from atop the upper level of the arena and sang “Amazing Grace” to the several hundred fans in attendance. No mic, no background music – just his angelic voice, drawing a loud ovation that brought the fans back into the game.
It seemed to give the Rattlers the edge, too.
St. Mary’s (4-5, 2-2 in Heartland Conference) went on to win the opening set 25-21 following the dispute that turned an 18-15 St. Mary’s advantage to 19-15. But TAMIU bounced back with a 26-24 victory in the third set, sparking a back-and-forth affair that saw the Rattlers win Set 3 25-17 and TAMIU win Set 4 25-21 before the Rattlers closed the door with a 15-11 victory in the decisive fifth set.
Kelsey Huber (So., San Antonio) led the Rattlers with 17 kills to go along with 16 digs, while Taylor Obermiller (So., San Antonio) came up big with 13 kills. Freshman Lauren Holman, Karlie Ortega (Jr., San Antonio) and Melissa Heft (So., San Antonio) all posted double-digit kills as well, with 12, 11 and 10, respectively.
Ortega led the Rattlers with 26 digs, while reigning Heartland Conference Libero of the Week Victorria Martinez (So., Arlington, Texas) had 25. Allie Murray (San Antonio), the squad’s lone senior, had a team-high 33 assists.
The victory was a big one for the Rattlers, pushing St. Mary’s into fourth place in the Heartland Conference race behind Dallas Baptist (3-0), Arkansas-Fort Smith (2-0) and St. Edward’s (2-1).
The Rattlers will now hit the road for the Pace Volleyball Tournament in New York, which begins Friday.