After falling victim in a pair of losses at the hands of Luverne (25-18, 21-25, 25-19, 25-13) and Jackson County Central (25-15, 25-12, 25-12), the St. James Area volleyball team had a chance to rebound in front of their home crowd on senior night.
The emotions were running high in pre-game, as seniors were honored, as were cancer survivors, in the team’s yearly cancer awareness night.
The four seniors on the roster, Kaydi Anderson, Korryn Karau, Callie Radenbaugh and Kierra Curry have all been instrumental in the Saints’ success this season.
“They show excellent leadership, not only in what they say but also in practice and it rubs off on our younger players,” said head coach Jodi Geistfeld.
“We’ve played like every sport together since we were little,” said Kaydi Anderson.
The seniors have been together in swimming, tennis, and every sport in between, creating a strong bond between the foursome.
Radenbaugh and Karau grew up next to each other.
“We played pepper all the time together growing up,” said an emotional Radenbaugh.
The emotion of the night may have affected the Saints early, with the hosts dropping the opening set 25-21, before falling in a combative second set 26-24.
Down two sets to zero, the Saints slowly started to climb out of the hole they had dug.
“After the second game, we were just saying ‘it’s not over’,” said Geistfeld. “We proved that we could beat them before, so let’s do it again and not give up. It was awesome.”
Geistfeld’s seniors, playing in front of the home crowd for likely the last time, echoed their coach’s sentiments.
“We knew we could come back because we had done it before,” said Curry.
“We always tend to do this to ourselves,” said Radenbaugh. “We put pressure on ourselves ever since we were young. Tonight we dug deep.”
“We just need to put the ball where they weren’t,” said Korryn Karau. “We put our talents together and made it work.”
Leading 13-12 in the third set, the Saints slowly started to pull away.
An ace by Radenbaugh was succeeded by kills from Anderson, Maddie Brey, and Karau, pushing the Saints’ lead to 21-14.
A long hit by Madysen Allen clinched a third set win for the Saints, planting a seed of doubt in the Cardinals.
The Saints started strong in the fourth set, taking a 14-8 lead. The Cardinals chipped away, and eventually tied the score at 17.
With the set later tied at 23 apiece, Maddie Brey won a battle at the net, putting the Saints up 24-23.
In the next rally, Korryn Karau iced the set with a kill, sending the home crowd into a frenzy, and firing up the St. James sidelines.
“I think after the first set they kind of keyed on Kaydi [Anderson], so it opened up for Korryn and Kierra [Curry],” said Geistfeld. “Kierra had a lot of nice down-the-line shots. When they figured out we were going to our outside [hitters], it opened back up for Kaydi.”
Karau had 18 kills for the Saints while Anderson finished with 15.
Freshman Addie Bowers had 12 kills of her own.
“When she plays with confidence she can hit with the best of them,” said Geistfeld of Bowers. “Tonight she started off a little bit tentative and then she really started swinging. Once we started seeing her smile out there we knew she was ready to hit the ball. That’s what it takes for her to smile.”
In the fifth set, St. James kept the momentum, with Anderson, Bowers, and Karau each recording kills. Kelsey Grunewald and Maddie Brey also chipped in, with a pair of Brey kills setting up the Saints for the victory. An attack by Fairmont into the set gave the Saints the match clinching point.
Chloe Mickelson recorded 19 digs. Maddie Brey had 43 set assists and was 19/19 serving, including two aces.
Kaydi Anderson led the Saints in blocks with four.
The gritty win puts the Saints’ record at 9-11, with the final three games of the season being in-conference played on the road.