San Antonio – The Rattlers continue to hold their No. 4 rank as their season remains a tight race to the Heartland Conference Tournament, defeating Newman University 3-1 Thursday in their second straight league victory.
Having no room for error or losses for the remainder of the season in order to make the tournament, the Rattlers (17-9, 6-5 in conference) charged the Jets (4-16, 2-10 in conference) Thursday to take the match in four, 26-24, 25-19, 29-27, and 25-12.
Although the Rattlers held a stiff lead at the beginning of the first set, peaking at a six-point lead, the Jets fought well to cause an extra-point affair, 26-24. The same scenario was seen in the second set with the Rattlers leading sizably by nine points before the Jets began to close the gap, but the Rattlers cut them off to take the second set by six. Throughout the first two sets, the Rattlers maintained the lead in both, and never allowed a tie or lead change in the second set.
However, the third set played to the Jets’ game as they took it 29-27. The third set was the only set the Jets gained a lead on the Rattlers, leading at one point by five likely due to the play of the Jets’ Katelyn Schmidtberger, who led the night with 21 kills. The Rattlers resurged and were several times at match point but the Jets proved clutch to win it in extra points, forcing a fourth set.
The Rattlers lead fifth-seeded Texas A&M International (5-6 in league play) by one game with three left for the fourth and final spot in the tournament.
“We struggle a lot of times with the third set,” says Karlie Ortega (Jr., San Antonio), who had five kills and 18 digs Thursday. “Because at that point you’re getting kind of tired and by the fourth set you have a new energy.”
Refocusing in the fourth, the Rattlers returned to their dominating play, again leading the Jets into a chunk of a deficit by as much as 13 points. The Jets couldn’t break the 15th-point mark before St. Mary’s reached match point, taking the final set by 13, 25-12.
Freshman Jenna Paul (Alvin, Texas) and Taylor Obermiller (So., San Antonio) led the Rattlers, with each recording 15 points and tallying 12 and 13 kills, respectively. Freshman Lauren Holman (Rowlett, Texas) led with six block assists while recording nine kills for 14 points. Victorria Martinez (So., Arlington, Texas) led both the Rattlers and the Jets with 30 digs and two service aces while Allie Murray (Sr., San Antonio) had 24 assists.
“Tonight was a great win, and we’re going to take that momentum,” says Ortega of the Rattlers’ upcoming match against the league’s No.1 and undefeated team, Arkansas-Fort Smith. “When we played (the Lions) at their house, we really didn’t give it our best show, and we took a set off of them. So here we’re hoping with the fans, our own home court and just being better than the last time we saw them, we’ll be able to give them a better run and win.”
The Rattlers play their last home game of the season against the league’s No.1 and undefeated team, University of Arkansas-Fort Smith, Saturday at Bill Greehey Arena at 12 p.m.