WINONA, Minn. It was a match the Saint Mary's University volleyball team could have easily looked past.
For photos of tonight's
Hamline match / click here
After all, in the next seven days, the Cardinals were to face three of the top teams in the Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference including last year's regular-season champion St. Thomas, and playoff-champion Concordia.
So it would have not surprised SMU coach Mike Lester in the least if his team came out a bit sluggish against Hamline Wednesday at the SMU Gym.
They didn't not by a long shot.
In fact, the Cardinals wasted no time dispatching of the Pipers, cruising to a 3-0, 30-18, 30-20, 30-21 victory.
"Traditionally, this Wednesday match is one of the toughest of the season for us," said Lester. We had already played 12 matches in a 14-day stretch, then had a week off before tonight's match. Usually, we struggle a little bit early, just getting back into the swing of things.
"Then add on top of that the fact that we face St. Benedict (Friday), Concordia (Saturday) and St. Thomas in our next three matches, it would be easy to overlook (the Hamline) match," continued Lester. "But we didn't do that. Everyone came in focused and did what they had to do."
It wasn't the Cardinals' best offensive performance SMU hit just .208 as a team and got 14 kills from Ashley Dingels (Gibbon, Minn.) and 13 from Kirstan Rouzer (Comstock, Wis.) but defensively, they were outstanding, collecting 50 digs and six blocks.
"Offensively we struggled a little bit, it wasn't out best effort but it was good enough," said Lester, whose team has now won four straight and improved to 2-0 in the MIAC and 11-2 overall. "We served great (10 aces) and we serve received well Hamline came into tonight's match leading the team in aces (3.76 per game) and we held them to one ace in three games.
"Overall, it was a good effort," Lester added. "Hopefully, we'll be able to carry the momentum over into this weekend."