SLEEPY EYE - It was a matter of who could overcome being consistently inconsistent.
In the end, it would be the Sleepy Eye St. Mary's Knights volleyball team that battled back from deficits in three of four sets to end the year for crosstown rival Sleepy Eye Indians 23-25, 25-16, 25-23, 27-25 Monday night.
It was the opening round of the Section 2A North Subsection with the match swaying the emotions of the all Sleepy Eye crowd with some mighty exciting volleyball.
"We played so tight the first set," St. Mary's coach Jen Walter said. "I told the girls they had to relax and be confident. Our middle hitters (Deonna Brinkman and Becca Schmitz) played extremely well and we knew we had to get the ball into the middle."
The Indians end their season 5-17, but vastly improved from their first meeting with the Knights when they were swept in three sets in the opening match of the year.
"We had the lead and just didn't capitalize," Sleepy Eye coach Nicole Jensen said. "We had mental breakdowns and let the Knights back in when we had momentum. "
The Indians looked like they were going to run away with the first set twice, taking leads of 12-7 and 18-13. Both times, the Knights came back to tie the game, with the score standing at 18-18 after five in a row from St. Mary's.
There would be five more ties in the set until a kill from Josie Schieffert gave Sleepy Eye the opener. The positive energy continued into the second set as the Indians took a 7-3 lead. But when the lead evaporated this time into a group of ties, it was St. Mary's who would rip off a 10-1 run and take a 21-12 lead that would eventually knot the match at 1-1.
The third set again started well for the Indians, as consecutive aces by Claire Krumbach gave them a 9-4 lead. After three unforced errors later by the Knights, Sleepy Eye had doubled the margin to 16-8 and looked like they'd go into the fourth set up 2-1.
Once again, the Indians watched as their lead slowly melted away, with Schmitz picking up her team with a block and two kills to tie it at 22-22. After it was 23-23, Sleepy Eye hit a serve into the net and watched as another Schmitz kill gave the Knights a 2-1 lead.
The deciding set saw St. Mary's take an early lead, then lose it later as the Indians built up some breathing room up 17-12. This time it was Brinkman who came up big, with three sets of two kills that saw the scoreboard read 23-23. After it was knotted 25-25, an out of bounds hit and a call of a double hit let the Knights squeak by and improve their record to 15-11.
Schmitz had 17 kills and six blocks for St. Mary's, while Brinkman added 12 kills and two blocks, with Bethany Berkner contributed 34 set assists. For Sleepy Eye, Krumbach had 18 kills and three blocks, while Miranda McMullen added 17 set assists, with Justine Gonzalez had 11 set assists.
The Knights will now travel to take on BOLD at 7 p.m. Thursday.