Ciarra McNally SMU volleyball

Photo from SMU Sports Information


Lewiston graduate Ciarra McNally led the Cardinals in kills in last week’s tournament.

by DONNY NADEAU, SMU sports information director


The second day of the Loras Invitational started the same way the first day ended for the Saint Mary's University volleyball team.

Which was not good news for the Cardinals. 

Coming off a 3-2 loss to Webster University last Friday evening, the Cardinals rallied from a 2-0 deficit to pull even with Knox College in their first match of the day Saturday, only to have the Prairie Fire escape with a 15-11 win in the fifth and final set to deal Saint Mary's a 3-2 setback.

And if playing back-to-back five-set matches wasn't draining enough, the Cardinals decided to go the distance in their final match of the tournament against Grinnell College, as well.

Unfortunately for the Cardinals, match number three ended in much the same fashion as the previous two, as the Pioneers outlasted Saint Mary's 15-11 in the fifth set to claim a 3-2 victory.

Knox jumped out to its 2-0 lead with back-to-back 25-19 wins, only to have Saint Mary's rebound with 25-16 and 25-15 wins in the third and fourth sets to set up the winner-take-all fifth set — where the Prairie Fire ended the set on a 5-1 run for the 15-11 win and the 3-2 victory.

Abbie Stigler — coming off 18- and 21-kill performances in Saint Mary's two matches on Friday — led the team for a third straight match, finishing with 13 kills against Knox. Ciarra McNally, of Lewiston, chipped in 12 kills, Mandy Schmidt dished out a season-high 31 assists and added 11 digs for her third double-double of the season, and Hannah Herrem posted a career-best 15 digs.

The Cardinals and Pioneers traded wins in the first two sets — Saint Mary's winning 25-19 and Grinnell answering with a 25-20 win in the second. Grinnell grabbed the upper hand with a 25-17 win in the third set, but Saint Mary's forced a winner-take-all fifth set with a 25-16 victory in set four.

The fifth set was a see-saw affair, with Grinnell clinging to an 11-9 lead, before pulling scoring four of the final six points of the set for the 15-11 victory.

McNally was the statistical leader for the Cardinals, racking up her third double-double of the tournament with 22 kills and 20 digs, while Stigler chipped in nine kills and Braidyn Ruetten chipped in eight. Larkin Clem and Schmidt chipped in 24 and 21 assists, respectively, and Berg and Herrem both finished in double figures in digs, tallying 18 and 14, respectively.

The Cardinals (6-5 overall) are back in action next weekend, when they head to Ripon, Wis., to take part in the Ripon Red Hawk Invitational. Saint Mary's will face host Ripon on Friday night, before squaring off against Lakeland University and Maranatha Baptist University on Saturday.