WINONA, Minn. — With the No. 4 seed in the upcoming Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference Playoffs already locked up, coach Mike Lester hoped his Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota volleyball team would use Saturday’s regular-season finale against Gustavus to gain a little positive momentum heading into post-season play.
He got his wish—and then some.
In a match that had the intensity of a conference playoff showdown, the Cardinals—behind the offensive prowess of Brandi Blattner(Eyota, Minn.) and Lexi Barth (Byron, Minn.), and stellar defensive play by Brittney Flom (Kenyon, Minn.), Gloria Kitange (Rochester, Minn.), and Molly Urban (Roseville, Minn.)—outlasted conference runner-up Gustavus 3-2 at the Saint Mary’s Gym.
“That was fantastic match all the way around,” said Lester, whose Cardinals will being post-season play on Tuesday, hosting Bethel in a 7 p.m. quarterfinal match. “I thought both teams played very, very well. It was a match that had playoff atmosphere and was fun to be a part of.”
Women’s Volleyball curtesy of Chris Ebert and SMUMN athletics
The two teams traded 25—21 wins in the first two sets, with Saint Mary’s winning the third, 25-23. Gustavus knotted the match at 2-2 with a convincing 25-17 Set 4 win, but it was Cardinals in the fifth and decisive set, with Saint Mary’s scoring four of the final six points for the 15-12 win.
Blattner collected a match-high 21 kills for the Cardinals, while Barth chipped in a career-best 17 and Maddie Hess(Lewiston, Minn.)—one of three seniors playing their final regular-season home match—added 11. Brittney Hanson(Janesville, Iowa) and Lillian Braun (Mantorville, Minn.) delivered 29 and 20 assists, while Morgan Thomas (Palos Park, Ill.)—another of the senior trio—notched her first collegiate double-double with 18 digs and 10 assists. Kitange and Flom each chipped in four blocks, while Urban—the third senior—added three.
Thomas was one of a season-high four players with double-doubles for the Cardinals. Blattner added 17 digs to her 21 kills, while Hanson and Braun finished with 16 and 14 digs to go along with their 29 and 20 assists.
Taylor Trautman and Lauren Hanson finished with 19 and 18 kills, respectively, and Nora Holtan posted 54 assists and 16 digs for the Gusties (9-2 MIAC, 21-7 overall).
The Cardinals improved to 8-3 in conference play, while pushing their overall record to 24-4.
Cardinal Volleyball returns for their playoff game Tomorrow, Tuesday, November 1st at 7p.m. in our home gym. It’s a whiteout to show our support and the first 150 students with ID & wearing white get in free. See you all there!