The St. Thomas volleyball team avenged two previous losses this season to Concordia-Moorhead Sunday with a 3-0 victory over the Cobbers in the NCAA regional championship.
Coach Thanh Pham said he thought the difference between this match and the others against Concordia-Moorhead was on the Cobber’s end.
“To be honest and frank, Concordia didn’t play the best match they could’ve played,” Pham said. “I felt like we played pretty steady, and Concordia was up and down. I don’t think they were expecting us to come out swinging the way we did.”
The Tommies were able to start the first set out strong, forcing early attack errors from Concordia-Moorhead. Three kills from freshman outside hitter Jill Greenfield in the first 11 points of the set helped the Tommies control the pace, and junior defensive specialist Kaitlain Wachter added seven digs. St. Thomas won the set 25-18.
After winning the first set for the first time against Concordia-Moorhead this season, Wachter said it was important to continue taking control of their side of the net.
“We decided that no matter what they do, we would just have to take control of our side of the net and whatever they did we were going to be ready for it,” Wachter said.
St. Thomas continued to dominate in the second set. Freshman Kelly Foley and senior middle blocker Taylor Cross combined for eight kills in the set, and multiple four-point streaks helped the Tommies seal a 25-19 second set victory.
“We ran into a few things in the first and second sets we hadn’t seen from (Concordia-Moorhead) before, but we just continued to play how we usually play,” Wachter said.
The Tommies jumped to an early lead in the third set, winning six of the first seven points.
Greenfield said tough serves were key to putting the Cobbers away.
“I think one thing we really tried to focus on for the third set was getting them out of system because they’re a really strong team, and when they’re in system, it’s really tough to beat them,” Greenfield said. “We really had to focus on tough serves.”
St. Thomas led 19-13 before the Cobbers came back slightly, but the Tommies held strong and won 25-19.
Foley lead the team with 14 kills, followed by Greenfield with nine. Greenfield also lead the team with 12 digs, followed closely by 11 digs from Wachter. Foley was named the region’s Freshman of the Year.
Senior setter Ashley Maher said the Tommies’ strong start was key in defeating the Cobbers.
“We knew that a strong start was going to be the key to this match because Concordia’s a really good team, and there’s not a lot you can do to get them down,” Maher said. “So we knew that we had to come out strong right away and take advantage of everything to be able to pull it out.”
Pham described the victory over a team that his players fell to eight days ago as “very rewarding.”
“We’re very excited about how hard our girls played. It’s very rewarding knowing that hard work pays off, and we’re very proud of that,” Pham said.
“We’ve been working really hard in practice, and it was awesome to show what we’ve learned,”
St. Thomas will advance to the Elite Eight of the NCAA playoffs November 18-20 in St. Louis, Mo.
Pham said his team will need to keep working hard.
“We need to back into the gym and get better. It never stops. We just need to continue to pass well and make sure we handle our side of the net…whoever else makes it out of that region is going to be good, so hopefully we’ll put up a good battle,” Pham said.
Briggs LeSavage can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org