The Knights fought deficits most of the night but came away with the 3-2 victory.
The anticipation was high and the gym was packed, setting the stage for the Knights and Indians to go at it in the crosstown rivalry.
The first set provided plenty of energy as St. Mary’s jumped out to a quick 3-0 lead. The Indians answered with three points of their own, tying the set. However, the Knights never gave up the lead in the first set until about halfway through the set. The Indians’ Head Coach Sydney Geiger called timeout when her team was down 13-9. The Indians dug deep and found some momentum to bring it within two at 19-17. The Indians would go on an 8-2 run to take the first set 25-21.
Game two provided more of the same as there was a lot of back and forth early on. The Indians caught fire behind the serving of Brittney Dittbenner to give them a 15-9 lead. The Knights responded with points of their own, forcing Geiger to call a time out with the score 15-13. The Knights’ momentum didn’t stop there as they went on to score five more points to stretch their lead to 20-13. The Indians would finally respond with a few points of their own to bring it to 20-17. The Indians would bring it within three at a score of 23-20, but St. Mary’s would go on to win the second set 25-20.
The Indians jumped out to a 7-2 lead in the third set before St. Mary’s responded with a couple points of their own while fighting some Indians hard-charging momentum early. The Indians stretched their lead to 11-5 before St. Mary’s scored three points in response, making it 11-8. The Indians continued to show strength by not giving in to the Knights’ attack, forcing Coach Jen Walter to call a timeout with the Indians ahead 15-9.
The Knights scored first out of the timeout, but the Indians were unphased, responding with four points to extend their lead to 19-10. The Indians relentlessly took a 24-14 lead before St. Mary’s went on a run behind junior libero Lauren Hoffmann, where the Knights scored five unanswered, bringing it to 24-19. The Indians ended the set with a 25-19 victory to take a 2-1 set lead.
In the fourth set, the Indians would go on to take an 8-5 lead. The Knights, knowing what was at stake in the fourth set, did not go away without a fight. Never going away easily, St. Mary’s brought it to 17-13 before a timeout was called. The Indians answered back with another run to extend their lead to 20-14. The Knights, refusing to give in, brought it within one, forcing the Indians to call a timeout with the score 23-22. Down to their final point 24-23, St. Mary’s scored the next two points to take a 25-24 lead. Neither team wanting to give in, went back and forth in the set in some high-intensity volleys, but it was St. Mary’s taking home the W in a 27-25 victory, forcing a decisive fifth set.
The final set was more of the same, the two rivals going back and forth, volley for volley. The Indians took the early commanding lead, 6-2 before coach Jen Walter called a timeout to calm the storm. With the Indians at match point, the Knights once again showed poise and continued to inch closer to the Indians, forcing another timeout.
St. Mary’s kept the momentum through the timeout and would force another as the Indians failed to have an answer with the Knights now leading 15-14. The gym remained filled with intensity from the student section and fans alike and the players matched the intensity. Back and forth volleying, rivals going jab for jab in the final moments and the Knights would become victors with an 18-16 set win, taking home the crosstown match 3-2.
St. Mary’s coach Jen Walter knew it was going to be a big game. “Going into tonight’s match, we knew that it was going to be tough to set the tempo of the game that we like to play,” she said. She was happy to see the mental toughness and poise her team showed in the win. “We talk a lot about gut check moments in volleyball and this was definitely one of those nights where we had to do that a lot.”
Indians coach Sydney Geiger was proud of her team’s effort on the night. “I love what we all brought to the court,” she said. “If we bring that and subtract own own errors, we will win games.” Geiger also liked how the Indians seemed to keep control of the game overall. “I would say for the majority of the match, momentum and energy were on our side. Ultimately, we beat ourselves tonight.”
Leading the Indians on the stat sheet was Brittney Dittbenner with seven ace serves, five kills, and four digs. Cassidy Hoffmann led the Indians with 12 set assists, while McKenna Strong had eight kills. The Indians look forward to hosting their invitational Saturday beginning at 9 a.m. vs. Madelia.
St. Mary’s was led by Cassie Heinrichs with 10 kills, followed by Madison Mathiowetz with nine of her own. Lauren Hoffmann also added 15 digs. The Knights will host the Springfield Tigers Thursday, Sept. 6th at 7 p.m. The Knights then will play Fairmont at 9 a.m. Saturday at the Sleepy Eye Invitational.