WINONA, Minn. The Saint Mary's University volleyball team entered Wednesday's Minnesota Intercollegiate Athletic Conference match against St. Thomas having not lost in the SMU Gym since had not lost a home match in the SMU Gym since a 3-0 loss to Bethel on Sept. 25, 2002.
A span of 13 straight matches.
The Cardinals' quest for No. 14, however, ran into a road block literally.
St. Thomas, fueled by 24 blocks including six each from Kelly Fitzpatrick, Amie Lee Aschenbeck and Ann Eibensteiner snapped the Cardinals' home streak with a 3-1 (24-30, 30-21, 30-24, 30-24) victory.
"We certainly did not play our best match," said SMU coach Mike Lester, whose team has now lost two straight for the first time all season. "St. Thomas ia a good blocking team, and they proved that tonight.
"We have some trouble against good blocking teams because our offense is a slower-paced offense to the outsides," continued Lester. "When a team is able to get into a set position like St. Thomas was tonight, they are going to get a lot of blocks."
Did they ever.
The Tommies, who came into the match boasting 147 blocks through their first 14 matches, were continually frustrating the Cardinals' offensive attack, knocking down virtually everything that came their way.
"(St. Thomas) did a nice job at the net, but we also gave them way too much," said Lester, who did get 11 kills and nine digs from Tracy Koertgen (Crystal Lake, Ill.) and 10 kills from Ashley Dingels (Gibbon, Minn.). "Our outsides were too inconsistent, and we didn't make the adjustments we needed."
SMU started out strong, breaking away from a 10-10 tie and never looking back in winning the opening game 30-24. From there, however, it was all St. Thomas, as the Tommies took early leads they would never relinquish in winning Games 2 and 3, then used an 8-2 run to turn a 22-22 deadlock into a match-clinching 30-24 win in Game 4.
"(St. Thomas) did a nice job of coming back on us," said Lester of the Tommies, who made SMU their fourth straight victim. "Usually this season, when we've won that first game, we've been able to roll right through but not tonight.
"It's a tough loss, but it's also not the end of the world, we've just got to refocus and get ready for (next Wednesday's match against) St. Olaf."