The St. Thomas volleyball team swept Northwestern College (Minn.) and University of WIsconsin-Eau Claire in a doubleheader Wednesday, Sept. 26, at Schoenecker Arena. The Tommies (16-1, 3-0 MIAC) have won 20 consecutive victories at home dating back to last season.
Sophomore middle blocker Kelly Foley’s 10 kills helped the seventh-ranked St. Thomas volleyball team dismantle Northwestern 3-0 in their first game of the night.
Coach Thanh Pham expected the Eagles (10-6) to be a tough opponent and knew it was a good matchup for his team.
“We knew Northwestern would be a really good team. They’ve played our conference extremely tough, and they’ve played in our building extremely tough,” Pham said. “We knew it would be a good battle.”
The teams exchanged leads back and forth the entire first set, but the Tommies rallied and won a close 25-23 decision.
Senior defensive specialist Kaiti Wachter played strong with 15 digs on the game. Wachter said she was proud of how the team played together the entire match.
“We stuck together no matter what. If somebody was off, someone else picked it up for them and helped them out,” Wachter said.
The Tommies, who are currently ranked fifth nationally in hitting percentage at .299, won the second set by a final score of 25-21. Sophomore outside hitter Jill Greenfield had nine kills, eight digs and three blocks. Greenfield said she knows how well this team is capable of playing.
“We just have to work harder together, and play as a team,” Greenfield said. “If we do that and give our best effort, no one can stop us.”
St. Thomas started quickly in the third set and didn’t look back taking the set 25-15.
Wachter’s 31 digs lifted St. Thomas over Wisconsin-Eau Claire 3-1 in a competitive battle.
Pham said he was pleased with his team’s performance.
“We learned a lot about ourselves against two teams that are going to do very well in their leagues,” Pham said. “If we are in system, it’s very hard for other teams to top us.”
The Tommies carried the momentum from their earlier game and jumped out to an early 13-5 lead in the first set over the Blugolds (10-8). They finished the set 25-18.
Foley put in another solid performance with 14 kills and four blocks.
“We worked hard throughout the whole game and never let up,” Foley said.
After an intense second set, the Tommies couldn’t hold on and lost 28-26.
“After they won the second game, we knew we had to come back strong and win the next two,” Foley said.
Junior outside hitter Nicole Potts said her team needed to refocus after the second set loss.
“We just knew that we had to work hard the entire game no matter what,” Potts said. “You can’t pick one thing and expect to win. You just have to work together as a team.”
The Tommies didn’t let the lost set phase them, jumping out to a quick 6-1 lead in the third set. With the score at 24-18, sophomore outside hitter Jill Greenfield spiked a kill toward the corner to capture the set. Greenfield ended the match with 12 kills.
The fourth set proved to be no different from the rest of the night, with a convincing 25-18 victory to end the match. Junior setter Katie Maher posted 26 assists and freshman setter Sarah Kosbab finished close behind with 23 assists.
St. Thomas is off to a fast start this season, but Pham said his team still has things to improve upon as it continues into conference play.
“Team chemistry is always big. We must continue to do the little things throughout the season,” Pham said. “We can improve on what every team wants to get better at, passing and serving.”
St. Thomas will travel close to home for its next match-up, facing Macalester College at 7 p.m. Friday, Sept. 28. The team’s next home game is against St. Catherine University at 3 p.m. Saturday, Sept. 29.
Foley said she knows these two games will be good tests and that the team can’t overlook either opponent.
“We need to really focus on playing hard no matter who we’re playing,” Foley said.
Kyle Jonas can be reached at email@example.com.