No. 9-ranked volleyball loses in MIAC playoffs to No. 21-ranked Oles

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The No. 9-ranked St. Thomas volleyball team lost in five sets to No. 21-ranked St. Olaf in the semifinals of the MIAC playoffs Thursday. The Tommies fell 26-24 in the deciding set at Concordia University in St. Paul.

While the Tommies jumped out to a quick 1-0 lead after the first set, the Oles fought back and went on to win sets two and three. In both losing sets St. Thomas trailed throughout, knotting up the score but never recovering the lead.

St. Thomas fell behind 10-16 in the fourth set, but then scored seven of the next eight points to tie the game at 17-17. Junior Molly Stanton’s ace and a kill by junior Jill Osborne chalked up two more points, giving the Tommies a 19-17 lead and the strength to hold on and win the fourth set.

With renewed energy, St. Thomas started the fifth set with a 5-1 lead, but attacks by St. Olaf’s Katie Wolfram kept the Oles in the game, bringing the score to 10-8. St. Thomas took its last lead at 14-11 and the Tommies seemed to be on a roll, but a call was overruled and St. Thomas lost the point. The Oles gained control thanks to St. Thomas’ errors and then Ole Kim Smisek’s kill gave St. Olaf the win.

St. Thomas junior middle blocker Alesha Nelson said the level of excitement was high in the fifth set, but things just didn’t fall into place.

“We came out pretty strong, but we messed up a couple big plays,” she said. “Having that last call about the ball being out really just changed our momentum and we didn’t have time to pick ourselves back up.”

The loss brought the Tommie’s five-match winning streak to an end.

“We have to hope that we get a bid into the playoffs, and then if that happens we need to really get our act together,” Nelson said. “All the things we need to fix we can definitely do better. That’s a good sign. We have to play better and execute better.”

St. Thomas will find out Monday at 10 a.m. if the Tommies make the NCAA playoffs with an at-large bid.

Like usual, senior Kyley Crotty had a big game racking up 13 kills and 25 digs. Bonine had 10 kills and nine digs, junior Jill Osborne tallied 17 kills and junior setter Emily Foster recorded 52 assists and nine digs.

Earlier this week, Foster was named 2009 MIAC Player of the Year, and teammates Crotty and Osborne joined her on the 18-player all-conference team.

The Oles hit .195 as St. Thomas hit .155. St. Olaf was led by Kim Smisek, who had 26 kills and 18 digs. Kelly Prunty added 54 assists and 11 digs, Katie Wolfram had 15 kills and Alyssa Williams dug out 34 balls. St. Olaf advanced to Saturday’s finals at top-seed St. Ben’s.

Sally Schreiber can be reached at