By Jake Calhoun
Journal Sports Writer
NEW ULM - After a promising first-set victory against South Central Conference rival St. Peter, the wheels came off for New Ulm in its four-set loss (25-20, 13-25, 17-25, 17-25) on Tuesday night.
Staff photo by Steve Muscatello
New Ulm senior Chase Schewe spikes the ball as Olivia Haas (right) of St. Peter attempts a block Tuesday at NUHS. Looking on from the bench is teammate Katie Forst.
For more photos of this event go to cu.nujournal.com
"Once they got a run ahead of us, our confidence level dropped a lot," said New Ulm coach Lauren Hoffmann. "We just couldn't seem to pick ourselves up. By the time we did, it was too late."
St. Peter (15-7-2, 8-1 SCC), which avenged a four-set loss to the Eagles from Sept. 17, gained the upper leg in the conference with the win and can capture the conference title outright next Tuesday if it beats Fairmont. New Ulm (9-11-1, 7-2) can earn a share of the conference title if it beats St. James next Tuesday and if Fairmont upsets St. Peter.
The teams were neck-and-neck in the first set - never separated by more than two points for most of the set until a 4-0 run by the Eagles gave them a 22-17 lead.
New Ulm senior Lizzie Rummel had eight kills in the Eagles' 25-20 first-set victory, but her role on the offense changed once St. Peter picked up its blocking and adjusted to her attacks.
"It just seemed to work to not kill because they were digging it out," Hoffmann said. "So she tried other things that were working a little better."
Rummel finished the night with 11 kills.
It was the Saints' "bigs" - juniors Paige Lubiani (6-foot-2) and Olivia Hass (6-foot-3) - who made the most noise from the second set on. Hass registered at least five kills in three of the four sets to finish with 20, while Lubiani splattered seven balls on the Eagles' floor in the fourth to give her 14 on the night.
As opposed to the Eagles' four-set win against the Saints on Sept. 17, Hoffmann said defending Lubiani and Hass was much different this time.
"They weren't as hard last time," Hoffmann said. "[Hass] knew where to place it. And even if she missed the set, she's so tall that no matter what she could do a double swing and she could get it over, it would just be a tip."
With the match tied 1-1, the Eagles jumped out to a 5-0 lead after four-straight St. Peter attack errors and a kill by Ellie Schneider. An attack error by Alley Grejtak, gave the Saints their first point of the set, which they went on to win 25-17.
Overall, Grejtak tallied five attack errors and three service errors, but she wasn't the only one having a bad night.
"We kind of all had an off night with serving," Hoffmann said. "We missed a lot of serves so that kind of hurt us a lot."
Despite having five attack errors, Grejtak finished second on the team in kills with six.
Bailey Hofmeister finished with a team-high five blocks for the Eagles, while libero Brianna Sieve led the team in digs with 19.
Overall, Hoffmann said lack of confidence was the main reason for her team's loss. This is something she will aim to turn around as the Eagles close out the regular season and head into section play.
"We've got to keep our confidence levels up and we've got to learn to not get down on ourselves if we get behind," Hoffmann said. "Other than that, we've been having a great season. The girls played very well tonight even though it did end in a loss."